Description of the programme
Focused on supporting vulnerable adults living within both urban and rural areas of Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, the aim of the BEAT 2 project was to break the cycle of financial instability and crisis. This would then enable financially excluded adults to gain financial independence and build resilience to potential future financial crisis. The project was delivered by a small team of specialist advisors employed by Changing Lives and Oasis Aquila Housing. They provided one-to-one financial advice/support on an outreach basis from a wide range of community settings e.g. recovery centres, food banks, or homelessness centres. Project delivery followed a two-stage process of short-term crisis support, followed by long-term development of financial skills.
By the end of March 2018, BEAT 2 had supported 496 adults age 18+ that were either homeless, or exhibited at least one of the characteristics placing them at risk of homelessness (e.g. rent arrears, issues with mental health, substance abuse, etc).
BEAT 2 also provided financial capability training to 134 frontline staff/volunteers working in other services supporting vulnerable adults (e.g. recovery centres, health organisations, employability services).
The evaluation focused primarily on gathering outcomes evidence from project clients, and from frontline staff/volunteers undertaking training, using pre and post-intervention surveys. The research took place between March 2017 and March 2018.
Clients: 444 clients (90%) completed a baseline survey on first registering with the project, of which 329 received two or more interventions. 181 of these clients (55%) completed follow-up surveys between one and nine months after receiving support.
Staff/volunteers: 134 staff/volunteers completed a baseline survey prior to undertaking training, of which 61 (46%) completed a follow-up survey between one and six months after completing training.
- A reduction in benefit sanctions, rent arrears and debt;
- Improved understanding and awareness of their own financial situation;
- Less anxiety about their financial situation;
- Budgeting and keeping track of income and spending;
- Improved knowledge of financial services and products.
For staff and volunteers:
- A better understanding of the importance of financial capability;
- Improved financial capability skills and knowledge;
- Improved ability to deliver financial capability support to clients.
- 51% more clients were resolving benefit problems at the follow-up stage, compared to the baseline.
- 37% fewer clients worry a great deal about their financial situation after the intervention than before.
- Three-quarters (75%) of clients at the baseline said they were finding it very difficult or quite difficult to manage financially, but by the follow-up stage this had fallen to 43%.
- 28% of clients had applied for new/additional benefits during the six months before the intervention, but by the follow-up stage this had risen to 64%.
- Over a quarter (27%) had taken steps to reduce outstanding debt at the follow up, an increase from 21% at the baseline.
- At the baseline, 43% of clients tended to agree, or agreed strongly, that nothing they do will make much difference to their financial situation, but by the follow-up stage this had fallen to 24% of clients. A third (31%) of clients reported a significant improvement in their approach to keeping track of their finances (income and spending), between the baseline and follow-up.
- Clients reporting they have a clear idea or some idea about how to create a household budget increased from 56% at the baseline, to 70% by the follow-up stage.
Outcomes for staff/volunteers:
- The percentage of staff/volunteers reporting good or reasonable skills and knowledge relating to financial capability increased by between 10% and 20% from the baseline to the follow-up.
- Face-to-face advice provided by skilled and experienced advisors enabled trusting relationships to be formed with clients.
- Financial capability support for this client group should be delivered in conjunction with support from other specialists, such as addiction recovery centres, or mental health counselling.
- Using benefits advice as a very model – most clients were attracted to the project to get help to resolve a benefits problem.
Points to consider
Methodological limitations: While the matched samples are smaller than hoped, they are still sufficient for limited statistical analysis. However, no significance testing has been performed so we do not know if the results are statistically significant.
Relevance: This report is relevant to all stakeholders and policymakers with an interest in financial capability interventions among the ‘struggling’ segment (as defined by MAS), and among vulnerable people at risk of serious financial difficulties.
Generalisability/ transferability: The research, while thorough, is based on relatively small numbers in one geographic region of the United Kingdom. Combined with the lack of statistical testing, its findings cannot be readily generalised to the rest of the UK without further research.
BEAT 2 Project - full report