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Research by Martijn Keizer reveals: Lower literacy levels among people with financial problems

25 April 2018
Martijn Keizer
Martijn Keizer

Lower literacy levels are much more common among people with financial problems. Research by the University of Groningen in collaboration with Syncasso Gerechtsdeurwaarders [Syncasso Bailiffs], Kredietbank Nederland and the Reading and Writing Foundation, has revealed that half of the people wrestling with financial problems also have difficulty with reading. No fewer than 50.3% of the participants in the research – clients of Kredietbank Nederland and Syncasso Gerechtsdeurwaarders – were allocated the ‘low literacy indication’, whereas in the Netherlands as a whole the percentage of the population with low literacy levels is 18%. This means that they are unable to participate fully in society, because they score below the language level set by the government.

This is the first time that research has been conducted among people with debt in the Netherlands using a validated measurement instrument, the ‘Taalmeter’ [Language measurer] of the Reading and Writing Foundation. The research report describing these results was presented today to Secretary of State Van Ark of Social Affairs and Employment. Van Ark: ‘Low literacy combined with debt is a subject of great concern to me.’

Improve Communication

Now that the first phase of the project has been completed, the initiators will set to work on ways to communicate effectively with people with both financial problems and a low level of literacy. Carry de Niet, director of Kredietbank Nederland: ‘The research confirms our suspicions that the percentage of people with low literacy levels and financial problems is higher than average. This has major consequences both for those with low literacy levels and for society as a whole. Based on the results, Kredietbank Nederland and Syncasso Gerechtsdeurwaarders, in collaboration with the Reading and Writing Foundation, will develop new communication strategies. The aim is that this group of people must not miss any important information that could help them to resolve or prevent the financial problems they face.’

The next step in the project is to collect suggestions about how to resolve the problems people face. These will be used to develop new communication strategies and guidelines for communication, together with the Reading and Writing Foundation. The effectiveness of these new communication strategies will be tested on the target group in the second half of 2018. The results and related recommendations for other organizations will be widely disseminated in the first half of 2019 to partners and other interested parties.

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