‘One order of fries cost one grey square’

Plastic coins increase self-sufficiency

Paying with coins shaped like a grey square or a pink triangle is a great solution for people with intellectual disabilities. It enables them to learn how to handle money and pay for things independently. Thanks to Rabobank Amerstreek, this payment system devised by the SOVAK foundation has become a reality.

The SOVAK foundation provides people with intellectual disabilities with individual, tailor-made services. About 900 employees and 500 volunteers dedicate themselves every day to increasing the self-sufficiency of their 700 clients. The organisation introduced plastic coins in 2015 to teach clients how to handle money. Peter Sparidans from SOVAK: ‘Regular money is too abstract for our clients, who think more visually than we do. Euro coins all look alike, but our coins are very different.’

Enormous help

There are three coins: a pink triangular coin worth 50 cents, a round white coin worth 1 euro and a grey square coin worth 2 euros. Pictures of the coins indicate how much things cost, for example a pink triangle for coffee or a grey square for fries. Because clients must look after the coins themselves, they also learn responsibility and self-sufficiency. ‘The coins represent something of value, so you shouldn’t lose them,’ says Sparidans. ‘For people with mild intellectual disabilities the coins might seem a bit childish, but for people with lower IQs, its an enormous help.’

3D printer

FabLab Breda makes the coins using a 3D printer. Each one costs 30 cents to make. ‘This meant that the project costs were quite considerable,’ says Sparidans. That’s why SOVAK approached Rabobank Amerstreek for financial assistance. Isabelle Prohn, Cooperative and Corporate Social Responsibility Advisor at the local Rabobank: ‘We have been involved with this social organisation in various ways for several years. Several of our teams have volunteered at SOVAK. At the end of 2015, we also organised a day focused on cooperation between caregivers, volunteers and healthcare professionals.’

Control of expenses

Rabobank encourages financial self-sufficiency, for example through guest lessons in schools. Prohn: ‘Our experience is that people with intellectual disabilities sometimes have difficulty maintaining control of their income and expenditures. When SOVAK approached us for financial assistance, we quickly agreed to contribute to the production costs from our cooperative dividend. It has become a tangible and usable currency system that allows clients to gain skills in a safe environment. Naturally, we are happy to support this.’