Description of the programme
[This is an extract from the Executive Summary of the evaluation report. Further amendments may be made to this Summary, pending review by the Evidence Hub partner]
Groundwork West Midlands received funding from the What Works Fund to deliver a community led mentoring model, named the #FinancialChampions project. The project aimed to help reduce social isolation in the older generation through the use of digital tools and technology, with participants becoming more financially capable. The project was delivered in 2017 in targeted areas of Birmingham and was delivered in two main ways:
- 16 older residents trained up as Financial Champions to provide a peer to peer mentoring model to a wider network of 122 residents through the delivery of 14 workshops.
- A wider network of older residents (n=122) took part in workshops which focused on improving digital and financial capability.
To help Groundwork West Midlands add to the evidence base for similar projects, M·E·L Research were commissioned to carry out an evaluation. The aim of the evaluation was to address two research questions: 1. How can digital/social inclusion projects help older people become more financially capable? 2. How effective can a peer mentoring or ‘champions’ model help to cascade financial capability information in an appropriate way to the target group?
The evaluation used a mix of approaches, both qualitative and quantitative. The theory of change developed for the evaluation used the Money Advice Service’s Financial Capability Outcomes Framework to identify key indicators which measured any change as a result of the project. The intended outcomes of the project were:
Older people live within means and feel more secure and in control.
- Older residents are more able to keep track of finances because they use online banking regularly.
- Older residents are more confident they have appropriate products because they access guidance about money online.
- Older residents are making the most of their income by shopping online for better deals.
- Older residents are better at sticking to a budget because they are using online budgeting tools.
- 20 volunteer Financial Champions able to provide basic advice and guidance in digital literacy
Financial capability (mindset):
- The peer to peer support model was well received by participants. The similarity of the (age) group allowed people to easily relate to each other by providing practical and usable information.
- Some workshop participants and Financial Champions became more aware of financial guidance and advice by taking part in the project.
- Most workshop participants and Financial Champions felt more organised in managing their finances day to day and feeling in control of their finances, but this wasn’t necessarily as a result of using online services.
Financial capability (ability):
- The majority of the Financial Champions agreed the project equipped them with basic skills and knowledge to provide peer to peer support.
- The majority of Financial Champions felt more capable when accessing and providing advice and guidance about finances since taking part in the project.
- It was common for workshop participants and Financial Champions to find it easier to find various sources of information online since taking part in the project.
- Some workshop participants and Financial Champions felt they had made improvements in being able to navigate online and find the information they need. Although more in-depth research showed that this was related to a change in their mindset, and not all felt confident in doing this by themselves.
Financial capability (behaviours):
- For the vast majority of workshop participants and Financial Champions the quantitative data indicated that there were increases across various online activities. For example, using the internet for emailing, online banking, researching topics, using comparison sites etc. The qualitative research showed that although participants were aware of online banking, shopping etc. they were hesitant to use it or follow through with a purchase.
- Exposure and access to sources of information online, as well as online services had improved with participants being more aware of what was out there; but this didn’t necessarily lead to any change in behaviour.
- With regards to the level of social isolation of participants; this was relatively low, and improved slightly after the project had finished.
Points to consider
- The project did not include a control group (gathering data from people that did not participate) in order to provide counterfactual evidence with which to access outcomes. This limits the robustness of the evaluation, as it is unable to compare behaviour change amongst participants with that reported by a control group.
- While we have undertaken research activities, the impact of the project was measured only through self-reported behaviours. No independent validating observations were made so the evidence is intrinsically limited.
- A larger scale evaluation would be more robust, including assessing participants’ perceptions straight after the sessions and then following up a few weeks later into what changes have occurred as a result of the project.
- Due to the length of the evaluation, in some instances participants found it hard to recall some aspects of the workshops.