Funding story: Friends Provident

The foundation invests in research and funds initiatives designed to support people in debt or with financial problems.

The Friends Provident Foundation makes grants of between £2,000 and £5,000 to projects that encourage new ways of thinking about how money is used to solve a wide range of problems, according to Brian Sweetland, the foundation's chair.

It aims to improve self-perpetuating problems caused by poverty, such as the fact that 30 per cent of households don't have savings, home contents insurance or private pensions. One way it achieves this is by improving access to appropriate financial services for those who are currently excluded from them because of low incomes, for example.

"A good financial system would work equally well for everyone," says Danielle Walker Palmer, director of the foundation. "But at the moment the market doesn't function properly.

"People at the lower end of the market can get money or credit only at very high levels of interest."

The foundation funds projects that provide access to banking services for people with learning disabilities, money management for people with bipolar disorder and personal finance skills for young people in care. It also funds specific organisations, such as credit unions, that work with people on low incomes.

It also supports research and policy work. With the Nuffield Foundation, it jointly funded research by the Fawcett Society, a charity that campaigns for equality between men and women.

"The November report, Women's Financial Assets and Debts, marks our entry into the world of financial inclusion," says Rowena Lewis, head of fundraising at the Fawcett Society.

She says the foundation takes more of a partnership approach than some other grant funders: "It has a real willingness to engage with projects. It's not just about funding - it's about furthering the cause and transcending the funder package to become a partnership working for social change."

The financial inclusion programme has a year to run. In that time, Walker Palmer wants financial advice for those on low incomes to be funded sustainably.

"Things are starting to slot into place," she says. "The national debtline is funded by the financial services industry, and that funding is ongoing."

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