Description of the programme
Advising Communities delivered a fourteen month pilot project called Money Well, supporting 120 people with mental health needs or low levels of mental wellbeing to improve their financial capabilities. Participants were recruited from Advising Communities’ drop-in services or referred via a partner organisation. Participants received a combination of one-to-one support and group training. Delivery was focused in two London boroughs (Southwark and Lambeth), including at Advising Communities’ Advice Hub. Each participant was offered up to eight one-to-one sessions with an advisor and encouraged to participate in four group sessions. Participants created an action plan and regularly reviewed this with their advisor.
The pilot was designed to answer the following research questions:
- Are there any differences between the outcomes of those taking part in the project who have a formally diagnosed mental health condition and those without (low levels of wellbeing)?
- What is most effective way of engaging clients with mental health conditions and low levels of wellbeing in improving their financial capability?
- What method is the most effective way of improving the target groups’ financial capability (one-to-one, advice or small groups)?
An evaluation of process and outcomes reflected on the delivery model and measured changes brought about by the project. Mixed methods were utilised including pre- and post- intervention participant questionnaires, participatory rapid assessment exercises and case studies. The evaluation assessed the extent to which the project achieved the intended outcomes and impacts identified in its theory of change, aligned with the Money Advice Service’s (MAS’s) Outcomes Framework. Pre-and post- participation data was available for 66 participants that completed the pilot. A value for money assessment was also conducted, (including a cost benefit analysis and assessment of social value).
The process evaluation found:
- Supporting participants who had sometimes chaotic lifestyles made scheduling group work within a fixed time challenging.
- Retention improved during the pilot. Participants referred from partner organisations were more motivated to attend than those who had a pre-existing relationship with Advising Communities.
- Support was enhanced by improving internal communications amongst the delivery team and delivering sessions closer to where participants lived.
- Participants reported the mix of one-to-one sessions and group work complimented each other, enabling them to learn more than in a single setting.
The outcomes evaluation found:
- Participants demonstrated greater improvements in increased confidence and attitudes towards managing their finances both day-to-day and for the future. (All ten indicators for this outcome registered positive change). Participants became more motivated to keep track of income and expenditure, make money go further, plan for less positive scenarios and live within their means and save. Participants also reported increases in valuing saving and having concrete goals to work towards, adjusting their behaviour to meet those goals.
- Improvements in financial resilience and a reduction in the amount of support needed to resolve problems were also evident over time. For example, some participants were taking steps to reduce their debt, save for retirement and use credit more responsibly. However, participants did not show improvements in keeping track of income and expenditure and being proactive in seeking advice.
- A strong average improvement in personal wellbeing of nine percentage points across the three participant tranches was reported. However, participants increased understanding of their financial situation actually increased financial anxiety in the short term, by 29%. Participants commented that this anxiety could reduce over time, if they were supported.
- Participants demonstrated increased levels of knowledge and understanding in managing day-to-day financial affairs and in planning for the future. Participants were more able to answer questions about basic financial products, interest rates and loans and demonstrated improved understanding of insurance and savings products. However, there was no change in participants’ knowledge on where to go for advice, and a slight (1%) reduction in reported mathematical, literary and online skills.
Although the result should be treated with caution, for every pound invested, the pilot produced £4.33 in social value projected over a five year period.
Points to consider
- Due to the current way data on mental health and low wellbeing is captured by Advising Communities, the evaluation could not address the first of the three key evaluation questions posed in their proposal to the Money Advice Service.
- The small sample size available for analysis, which included vulnerable adults with mental health needs and low wellbeing, means the results may not be transferable to other client groups Advising Communities or its partners work with.
- Pre- and post- data was only available for just over half the participant cohort, limiting the generalisability of the findings.
Advising Communities Money Well project - full report