Description of the programme
An increasing amount of the information, tools and resources which can help us to better manage our money is online. However, it is widely acknowledged that the use of technology to deal with financial matters can present difficulties for older people who are often digitally excluded, whether by lack of access, motivation, confidence, skills or trust. These challenges have significance in Northern Ireland where many areas are poorly connected with slow (or even no) broadband, coupled with limited digital skills amongst the older population.
Building Resilience in Retirement (BRIR) aimed to improve the financial capability of older people through a digital inclusion training programme. The programme comprised six two-hour modules on developing digital literacy, avoiding scams, online budgeting tools, comparison websites and accessing online money advice services. Support staff were on hand, and during the programme participants were also given the opportunity to access a benefits entitlement check, whereby they could get advice and receive support to access benefits.
It was targeted at hard to reach older people to enable them to access a benefits entitlement check, where they could also get advice about receiving general support services. The programme was delivered between July 2017 and March 2018 in community settings throughout Northern Ireland (five in Belfast, and the other six across the region). A total of 108 people participated.
The evaluation was designed to find out if the digital training programme could improve older peoples’ ability to access general support services. It focused on:
- Ability: Digital skills to access money-related information and financial advice;
- Mindset: Increased confidence to access information and advice;
- Connection: Awareness of rights and entitlements and how to get help to manage resources;
- Behaviours: Increased resources and benefit take up;
The evaluation comprised:
- Pre and post course questionnaires, with 58 paired questionnaires being analysed for the evaluation;
- Three focus groups involving 22 participants;
- In-depth interviews with two participants;
- Survey of group leaders/facilitators (eight responses);
- Face-to-face interviews and focus groups with internal stakeholders;
- Telephone interviews with 4 external strategic stakeholders;
- Observation of one of the training sessions.
Ability: BRIR improved the digital skills of older people; 39% of respondents described their ability to use the internet as ‘good’ after the intervention compared to 18% before.
- The qualitative data suggests the intervention was particularly helpful in increasing awareness of online fraud and financial ‘scams’.
Mindset: Participants developed increased confidence in accessing and using online financial tools and resources; over 80% reported that they were now aware of how to protect themselves from online frauds/scams. Qualitative data supported this, revealing a low level of digital confidence before the intervention, with improvement following it.
- Before the intervention, half (53%) – judged their confidence as relatively low; this fell to 21% post intervention (though this is based on a relatively small base).
Connection: 89% agreed or strongly agreed that their knowledge of online sources of financial information and advice had increased since participating on BRIR.
Behaviours: Participants could see the potential for using the learning to do research and save money; however, there were limitations to the extent to which they would use digital technology for financial purposes.
- 82% agreed or strongly agreed that BRIR had made them more aware of budgeting and managing money.
The evaluation also analysed the processes employed in the programme:
Access: The programme provided a vehicle for accessing older people who may not usually have an opportunity to learn about online information, advice and resources to support financial capability.
Messaging: Learning how to keep safe online - rather than ‘learning’ financially capable behaviours - was the ‘hook’ that got people to sessions.
Sustaining: Developing digital readiness for financial purposes takes time, practice and trust. BRIR provided a foundation but older people may require longer-term or more intensive support to develop, sustain and apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills.
Points to consider
- The nature of the target group and the context in which BRIR was delivered meant it was not possible to collect both pre and post course data for all 108 participants.
- The small sample size impacted upon the level of statistical analysis which could be completed. The findings, therefore, are indicative of the perspectives and experience of BRIR participants, and not the population of hard to reach older people overall.
- This report is relevant to all stakeholders and policymakers with an interest in financial capability among older people, and particularly to those who are commissioning or planning interventions in areas related to increasing capability through online and digital channels.
- 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.
Evaluation of Advice NI’s Building Resilience in Retirement project - full report