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Money Matters: Financial capability, well-being and young people

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

This research explores the effectiveness of the Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services (YIACS) in improving the financial capability of 16-24 year olds. The research was conducted by the Learning & Work Institute on behalf of Youth Access, the national membership organisation for YIACS, and has been funded through the Money Advice Service What Works fund.

YIACS provides a holistic support model geared towards young people and their transition into adulthood. While most YIACS schemes work with all young people, many are highly vulnerable and their issues increasingly complex.

The study

This research addresses the following questions:

  • Can the provision of holistic support delivered through a YIACS model improve the financial stability and capability of young people aged 16-24?
  • In what way, if at all, does the mental health and wellbeing of young people correlate with their financial capability?
  • How does the provision of holistic support and advice lead to changes in the financial capability outcomes young people may achieve?

Research was conducted over nine partner sites recruited by Youth Access. The partners varied in scale, delivery, and environment; and delivered services across diverse geographical contexts throughout England. The research incorporates an impact, process and economic evaluation, including pre and post interventions surveys of service users, qualitative interviews with young people as well as frontline advisers and a cost effectiveness analysis. Financial Capability was assessed using an adapted survey tool developed by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre. Wellbeing was measured using the Short Warwick and Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS).

The project sought to fully engage up to 500 young people aged 16-24 presenting to YIACS in a range of circumstances, for example those in debt; having problems with welfare benefits; experiencing stress/anxiety/depression or who had substance misuse issues.

Front line staff at each of the service partners administered the survey. Baseline measures were collected on, or shortly after, engagement with the service. A repeated follow-up survey was conducted between 6-8 weeks after the baseline survey. Overall, 492 baseline surveys, and 463 follow-up surveys have been included in the analysis. Of these, 451 were paired through a process of automated matching and manual checking.

Key findings

  • There was a significant improvement in financial capability before the intervention and at the follow-up point. Average baseline financial capability score on entry was 13.5. Financial capability scores increased to 15.7 in the follow-up survey. All differences were statistically significant.
    • The average ‘making ends meet’ score was 5 at baseline; 6 at follow up;
    • ‘Keeping track’ 7 at baseline; 8 at follow up;
    • ‘Planning ahead’ 1 at baseline; 2 at follow up.
  • Qualitative data suggested that support had led to positive changes in money management, saving and spending behaviour, and attitudes and confidence regarding money.
  • Wellbeing levels for young people receiving YIACS support were very low compared with cohorts of a similar age. At follow-up wellbeing levels had significantly increased and approached average levels for the overall population.
  • There was a significant correlation between financial capability and SWEMWBS scores at both the initial and follow-up survey. Further, using a multiple linear regression model, analysis showed:
    • Having a higher financial capability score at baseline led to achieving a higher follow-up score.
    • Having a higher baseline wellbeing score was also a significant predictor, with follow-up financial capability scores increasing by 0.26 for every one point increase in the baseline SWEMWBS score.
    • There was a positive relationship between increasing wellbeing and increasing financial capability, with every one point increase in wellbeing being associated with an increase of 0.40 on the final financial capability measure.
  • Other improvements associated with support included:
    • Improved living arrangements and reduced homelessness;
    • Employment and training outcomes;
    • General social and wellbeing outcomes, including coping better with their mental health.
  • While these appear distinct from financial capability, improving a range of outcomes may have a positive effect on financial stability and wellbeing.
  • Even when using a highly conservative approach to cost effectiveness using only wellbeing outcomes as the benefit, the fiscal case for YIACS is strong, with an expected return of at least £1.61 for every pound spent.

Points to consider

Methodological strengths and limitations:

  • The sample size was sufficient for a robust evaluation to demonstrate statistically significant results.
  • Survey non-response was not routinely captured so it was not possible to accurately calculate response rates.
  • The absence of a counterfactual group makes assessing the impact of YIACS difficult. The authors feel developing a counterfactual group would be analytically useful, but ethically challenging.


  • This report is relevant to all stakeholders and policymakers with an interest in financial education interventions among vulnerable young people.

Generalisability/ transferability:

  • Some of the findings could potentially be generalised to the wider population as being indicative of ‘what works’ among this target group in England.

Full report

Money Matters: Financial capability, wellbeing and young people - full report

Key info

Programme delivered by
Youth Access (delivery partner and project lead) Learning and Work Institute (evaluation partner)
Year of publication
Contact information

[email protected]