Description of the programme
The project was delivered by Age Concern Tyneside South (ACTS) across South Tyneside Borough and supported people aged 65 and over. Working with health and social care professionals as ‘trusted messengers’, the project intended to identify people who might benefit from support with non-medical (especially financial) issues which were affecting their health and wellbeing. Support in the form of financial and life planning, such as welfare benefits claims and organisation of lasting power of attorney, was provided by paid project advisors through a mixture of telephone and face-to-face contact. The project supported a total of 599 clients through 866 individual appointments.
The evaluation sought to understand whether and how the project helped to ensure that the financial situation of older people did not negatively impact on their wider wellbeing. The outcomes captured (taken from the Older People in Retirement Outcomes Framework) were:
- Managing well day to day: satisfied and not anxious about finances; claim benefits that they are entitled to; feel entitled to claim benefits; confidence in managing finances; attitudes towards saving and spending to enjoy retirement
- Prepared for life events: plan to cope with life events/consider the risks of negative life events
- Understanding your clients: access to financial products and services; socially included; good physical and mental health.
The evaluation involved semi-structured interviews with project clients, stakeholders and the delivery team; and analysis of project monitoring and outcome data. Project data comprised baseline information (all clients: 599); one month (314, 52% of all clients); and three month follow-up (109, 18%). Some findings are based on a set of matched data across all three data sets (104, 17%).
- Nearly half (44%, n=599) of all clients were helped to claim benefits; they successfully claimed £23,551 between them in weekly benefits and a further £29,507 in one off payments
- Clients reported increased confidence in making financial decisions
- The proportion of clients reporting that they saved regularly increased; for the matched sample of clients, the increase was statistically significant (12 percentage point increase, n=103)
- The proportion of clients who were aware of lasting power of attorney increased; for the matched sample, the increase was statistically significant (6 percentage point increase, n=104)
- There were statistically significant increases in the proportion of the matched sample who found it easy to check their bank balance; withdraw money; pay without cash; and use a direct debit
- Client interviews highlighted a number of examples where an improved financial position had helped to increase an individual’s social inclusion (e.g. by being able to afford travel)
- Reported use of healthcare services by clients declined over time, but the results were not statistically significant.
- The project supported 599 clients, compared to an original expectation of 2,160. The low numbers were due to a combination of some poorly performing referral routes (especially GP surgeries) and the average number of appointments required per client
- More than half of referrals came from local hospitals and social care services
- The role of health and social care professionals as ‘trusted messengers’ acting to refer clients to the service has not really been proven. Evidence from professionals themselves was thin, and clients had a poor recollection of how they were referred to the service. Many clients already trusted ACTS because of previous contact with them and the wider Age Concern brand.
Cost-effectiveness and return on investment:
- The average delivery cost per client was £333 (559 clients); we estimate that the cost per client would reduce to £267 in any continuity service based on annualised costs
- The average cost per appointment was £230, this is based on 866 appointments for 599 clients
- Based on total project costs and the annualised value of the benefits secured for clients with project assistance, every £1 invested in the project generated £6.28 in benefits for clients.
Points to consider
The main limitations to the evaluation were as follows:
- The absence of a counterfactual, such as a control group of non-users
- Because of their age and various medical conditions, many clients found it difficult to recall details about their interaction with the project and how they first heard about it
- The project only ran for a little over a year which offered little scope for identifying and measuring long term impact; the evaluation probably underplays the benefits of the project to its clients as a result
- Difficulties in engaging referral agencies in the evaluation process despite the significant efforts of the project team and the evaluator; this limits the evidence from those who were the project’s ‘trusted messengers’
The evaluation demonstrates that the project has helped clients with specific financial capability issues, and that this support in turn has probably improved clients’ financial awareness and skills. The evidence of longer term outcomes such as improving physical and mental health is less clear cut, but this may be due to the relatively short timescales for the project and the evaluation.
The project has demonstrated a wide need among the older population for support with a range of issues related to financial capability. We judge that the project’s outcomes are generalisable for older people beyond the immediate delivery area.