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Citizens Advice Basingtoke - What Works project evaluation report

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

Citizens Advice Basingstoke secured funding from the ‘What Works Fund’ to design, test and evaluate an intervention aimed at improving the financial capability of vulnerable young adults. This constituted the delivery of a training course over 10 weekly sessions, to three small groups of participants. It was delivered between 2017-2018 in partnership with YMCA Basingstoke and the Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT).

The topics included were:

  • Understanding attitudes to money and spending;
  • Balancing income and spending;
  • Ways to live within budget and save;
  • Shopping around;
  • Best and cheapest ways to pay bills;
  • Finding accommodation and associated responsibilities;
  • Financial resilience – planning for life events;
  • Understanding bank accounts and credit.

Key features of the intervention were the co-design and co-delivery of content by peer mentors and the use of social media to promote engagement and learning.

The overall aim was to understand to what extent an intervention co-created by vulnerable young adults, and supplemented by peer mentoring and social media activity, improve the financial capability of young adults in similar circumstances.

The study

The research questions were:

Outcome evaluation:

  • Does this model of financial capability education improve the financial attitudes/ understanding/mindset of young people?
  • Does this model of financial capability education improve financial outcomes and behaviours for young people?

Process evaluation:

  • How effective is the use of incentives in encouraging young people to participate in the course (and which incentive is most compelling)?
  • How effective is the use of a peer education model in financial capability education for young people?
  • What are the reactions of young people to creating and sharing content related to financial capability via vlogging and other forms of social media? What are the drivers and barriers to doing so?
  • How effective is social media in changing attitudes of young people towards financial capability?

The evaluation ran from January 2017 to May 2018 and involved a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods including filmed ethnography, depth interviews, discussion groups and surveys. Administrative records and social media activity were also reviewed.

  • 38 participants completed the pre-intervention survey;
  • 18 completed the survey at the end of the course;
  • There were five in-depth interviews;
  • 18 participants completed a course feedback survey;
  • 19 participants took part in discussion groups.

Key findings

Outcome evaluation:

  • At the start of the course 52% (n=27) agreed that ‘I tend to buy things even when I can’t really afford them’ while at the end this reduced to 31% (n=13).
  • More participants agreed they could sort out financial problems independently and ‘without seeking advice’ after the intervention than before (though this is based on a small number of unmatched interviews).
  • 85% (n=13), fully understood their bank statements following the intervention, compared to 65% (n=27) beforehand (though again this is based on a small number of unmatched interviews).
  • The number of participants who understood the concept of shopping around, changing service providers and checking terms and conditions on purchases and financial products increased following the intervention (again based on a small number of unmatched interviews).
  • Unplanned outcomes for some included qualitative evidence of increased self-confidence, mental resilience and healthier eating. However, sustained behavioural and attitudinal change appeared limited.

Process evaluation:

  • Significant challenges exist in recruiting and retaining vulnerable young adults. Peer mentors can be instrumental in overcoming these.
  • Matched funding schemes can encourage saving and engagement, but eligibility rules need to be clear.
  • Maximum engagement is more likely with the use of free food and interactive games, activities and flexible content co-created by peer mentors.
  • Young vulnerable adults are cautious about creating and sharing social media material about personal finances.
  • Recruiting, retaining and managing peer mentors is challenging, time consuming and emotionally demanding.
  • Mental wellbeing among the peer mentors was a problem, with some peer mentors facing disciplinary issues because of sickness and/or suspected breaches of confidentiality.

Points to consider

  • Methodological limitations: The small sample size impacted upon the level of statistical analysis that could be completed. The findings are therefore indicative of the perspectives and experience of participants, and not the overall population of vulnerable young adults.
  • Relevance:This report is relevant to all stakeholders and policymakers with an interest in financial education interventions among vulnerable young adults.
  • Generalisability/ transferability: The research, while thorough, is based on 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.

Key info

Client group
Programme delivered by
CAB Basingstoke
Year of publication
Contact information

[email protected]