Description of the programme
Citizens Advice Southwark (CAS) arranged 12 monthly welfare reform events, which provided access to financial capability services, advice and information on welfare benefits and debt, and other support services. These were held at community venues in Southwark, which facilitated easy access to a regular series of events. In total, 287 people attended these events. Additionally, 136 money champions were trained by Citizens Advice Southwark and partner agencies and these comprised both volunteers and paid frontline workers. Their role was to provide financial capability support to their own communities or service users.
The evaluation considered:
- Whether people already on the path to financial exclusion or debt can take on board and act on financial capability messages;
- Whether utilising community-based financial capability money champions increases awareness and understanding of positive financial behaviours and actions.
To investigate this, the project evaluated two target groups:
- Social housing tenants living in the London Borough of Southwark;
- Frontline workers providing support to tenants and residents of the London Borough of Southwark.
A mixed research methodology was employed:
- 120 people attending welfare reform events in the first nine months of the project completed a quantitative pre- and post- event questionnaire;
- 48 people attending welfare reform events in the final three months of the project completed a qualitative questionnaire;
- Two focus groups took place involving 19 social housing tenants who had attended a welfare reform event;
- Financial capability money champions were surveyed on the completion of their training.
The outcomes being measured among participants were:
- Understanding of current financial situation;
- Awareness of the impact of changes to their circumstances;
- Motivation to make their money go further;
- Be confident enough to take actions to prevent problems occurring;
- Understand when to seek help;
- Understand how and where to access financial advice.
Outcomes evaluation findings:
- Three-quarters of participants (73%) described their financial circumstances as unmanageable and 75% of people described themselves as unemployed, sick or disabled, meaning a majority of those attending welfare reform events were therefore ‘people already on the path to financial exclusion or debt’.
- Fewer people (26%) believe they will run out of money before the end of each month, having attended an event (compared to 45% before).
- After attending a welfare reform event fewer people believe they will need to access credit (8% compared to 33% before the intervention), as much over the next three months as they needed to previously.
- The number of people who have a clear idea or some idea about how to create a household budget increased post-event from 53% to 63%; and the number of people with no idea of how to do this reduced post-event from 30% to 14%.
- More people said they would save money to put against future falls in household income post-event, compared with pre-event (11% against 4%).
- Of greatest help to those attending, in order of importance, was that the events:
- Provided the opportunity to get help with welfare benefits;
- Were local to them;
- Provided help on rent arrears and council tax issues;
- Provided help on bills (including debt);
- Provided good signposting to other sources of help;
- Had a range of organisations present.
Process evaluation findings:
- 136 money champions completed the training and 12 of these completed surveys. Specific ways in which the money champions felt the training has or will benefit the trainers included:
- Improving ability to support and advise their service user with financial capability messages;
- Improving ability to deliver financial capability workshops to service users;
- Enabling a new way of building relationships with service users;
- Enhancing confidence when giving budgeting advice.
Points to consider
- There is no mention of testing for statistical significance.
- Intended rather than actual outcomes are captured making interpreting the data difficult.
- Some questions asked after the intervention don’t replicate the pre-intervention questions they compared with.
- This report is relevant to all stakeholders, Local Authorities and policymakers with an interest in financial capability interventions among social housing tenants.
- 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.
Citizens Advice Southwark final evaluation report - full report