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evaluation

Improving financial confidence evaluation

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme:

The Improving Financial Confidence (IFC) programme originally aimed to improve social housing tenants’ skills and confidence. However, in practice, delivery providers found that many beneficiaries had well-developed financial capabilities, but were unable to make ends meet due to the wider context of welfare reforms. Therefore, the programme evolved to support people through a combination of crisis intervention and helping beneficiaries develop new budgeting skills that would be more effective in the context of economic changes (such as wage freezes or zero hour contracts).

Big Lottery Fund awarded 37 projects across England with funding of between £500,000 and £1 million each, over three to five years. Each project took a partnership approach, with partnerships led by a voluntary community sector organisation or a social housing landlord, and comprised of the Local Authority, social housing landlords, local advice services or a Citizens Advice service. Initially aiming to support new tenants, young tenants and tenants moving in and out of work, the Big Lottery Fund relaxed the target cohorts, so that any social housing tenants could be included. In addition, up to 25% of beneficiaries for each project could also be from the private rental sector. The programme originally aimed to reach 150,000 beneficiaries, while the evaluation captured data on 43,836 individuals.

The study:

Big Lottery Fund commissioned a consortium, led by Ecorys UK and comprised of the University of Bristol and Cobweb Consulting, to undertake the Improving Financial Confidence programme evaluation. The consortium utilised a mixed-method approach to undertake a process and outcomes evaluation. These methods were:

  • Supporting projects to self-evaluate and monitor outcomes
  • Facilitating project learning and sharing through an online portal
  • Conducting qualitative case studies and evaluation workshops
  • Analysing outcomes for beneficiaries and landlords (drawing on pre- and post- data for 10,129 tenants, and data on 130 landlords)

The final evaluation report details key findings from the process evaluation and outcome evaluation, and discusses learning about effective referral and engagement, delivery, and partnership approaches.

Key findings:

Referral and engagement: The evaluation found that the key success factors for engaging beneficiaries were establishing effective and diverse referral routes, allowing time to build up the brand locally, conducting outreach support and home visits, and building and maintaining a trusted relationship between the project worker and the tenant.

Delivery models: Learning from the ‘test and learn’ process showed that tailored one-to-one support, group activities, combining financial capability advice with everyday activities, supporting online money management and utilising peer mentoring and volunteer approaches were all effective delivery models.

Outcomes and impacts:

  • Although outcomes data on financial confidence was available for only a small sample (1,516) of beneficiaries, the data suggested that there was a sustained, positive change in financial confidence for beneficiaries after engaging in IFC projects.
  • Projects supported many IFC beneficiaries to access additional or increased income by accessing private pensions, applying for additional benefits and applying to charitable trusts and foundations.
  • Beneficiaries commonly reported having reduced levels of stress as a result of the IFC support that they received.
  • Some beneficiaries gained work as a result of project-related activities such as job clubs.
  • Some increased their confidence to deal independently with their finances after accessing budgeting advice.
  • Some beneficiaries had strengthened mental health as a result of support and signposting.
  • The study also found that there was a 33% reduction in the level of cash rent arrears, but concerningly the proportion of tenants who were more than two months behind in their rent had increased from baseline to follow-up.

Points to consider:

Generalisability/ transferability:

  • The evaluation captured follow-up data for 10,129 tenants (about 29% of the total number of beneficiaries), so analysis was possible for a significant proportion of IFC beneficiaries.
  • The evidence on sustained financial confidence was based on a relatively small subset of beneficiaries, so caution is needed when inferring to the wider population.

Relevance:

  • This report is relevant to all stakeholders and policymakers with an interest in ‘what works’ in interventions concerning, and evaluations of, financial capability schemes, particularly among social housing tenants.

Key info

Activities and setting
A programme comprised of 37 projects across England that aim to improve the financial confidence of beneficiaries.
Year of publication
2017
Country/Countries
England
Contact information

https://www.ecorys.com/Williams, J, S Collard, D Friedman, S Davies, D Hayes and K McKenna.