Description of the programme:
The Money Coaching pilot took place in late 2018, with the aim of testing whether providing one-to-one money support before, during and following debt advice would improve the client’s ability to maintain debt repayments, reduce future incidences of debt, and increase their confidence in dealing with financial difficulties.
The pilot was designed to engage 75 clients who were accessing debt advice, partnering them with one of four ‘Money Coaches’ who would start to work with them before the debt advice appointment. They would also work with them until the debt case was concluded to not only support the debt solution but to help with the wider problems that caused the client to get into debt in the first place.
The theory of change highlights the outcomes that the intervention hoped to achieve, and the evaluation intended to measure:
- Participants demonstrate improved knowledge and skills to deal with debts, manage repayments and mitigate the poverty premium.
- Participants demonstrate improved confidence and motivation to reduce the need for repeat advice and support.
- Participants know where they can get advice and support from to guard against financial difficulties and plan ahead for financial shocks.
- Participants make positive changes in their behaviour, guarding against the poverty premium and financial difficulties.
Participants were selected for the Money Coaches pilot as they entered the existing debt advice service, with the only criteria being that they had approached the advice service, and were to receive face-to-face debt advice. The evaluation employed both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods to achieve its aims. This comprised:
- Survey data collected both pre- and post-intervention, as well as follow-up surveys conducted 12 months after the debt advice. The number of surveys completed were 52 pre-intervention, 31 post-intervention, and 26 at the follow-up.
- A survey was also held at six months, but was only completed by 17 participants, with the authors suggesting this was due to ‘survey fatigue’.
- Eight semi-structured interviews were conducted among service users who had completed both the pre- and post-intervention survey. These were held three months after the debt advice.
- A further five semi-structured interviews were completed at the 12-month follow-up.
- There were also interviews with two of the Money Coaches.
Survey data was tested for statistical significance, and was supplemented by qualitative data from the interviews.
- Emotional and wellbeing outcome scores around money worries, impact on relationships, and confidence in the financial future all increased more sharply in general than the more practical outcomes.
- Although there was a reduction in the increase in these scores after 12 months, all remained well above the baseline levels.
- Budgeting and record-keeping scores showed mixed results, and were generally similar to pre-intervention.
- Scores for knowledge of financial products and use of advice improved significantly following the project.
- While Money Coaches facilitated practical outcomes such as preventing eviction and seeking out training opportunities, the changes and associated improvements were not necessarily sustained after 12 months.
- Though confidence in speaking to creditors increased slightly, and was maintained after 12 months, clients still found the conversations difficult.
- The authors report that the duration of the pilot was insufficient to deliver all of the help necessary, while there was insufficient time for the coaches to increase their skills.
- Interviewees were almost entirely positive about the Money Coaches, although they felt that the approach needed to be more holistic, taking account of welfare, mental health and other factors.
- Future pilots should take place over a longer time period;
- Coaches should receive more in-depth training;
- There needs to be an improved connection between specialist support providers;
- Creditors need to review communication channels and ensure debt repayment plans are both affordable and understandable;
- Courts must provide clear guidance on applying to vary a court order if management plans become unaffordable.
Points to consider
Methodological strengths/weaknesses: This evaluation is based on a relatively small number of participants which, along with the lack of survey data from a control group, means it was not possible to generate conclusive evidence about impact or causality.
- It was not possible to interview participants who dropped out of the programme, to evaluate their reasons for doing so.
Generalisability/ transferability: The evaluation is of significant interest to people concerned with enabling or evaluating financial capability interventions, particularly among debt advice clients.
Relevance: While the findings are potentially relevant in a UK context, further research is needed to assess whether they are representative of the entire UK.