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Supporting credit union members towards greater financial wellbeing

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

In the UK, half of adults are considered financially vulnerable, with little savings to rely on if they experience a financial shock such as redundancy, illness, or relationship breakdown. Credit unions support financial wellbeing through providing responsible products such as promoting regular saving, access to affordable loans, and schemes such as payroll deduction.

This report is based on an existing evaluation which tested the effectiveness of practical education materials designed to improve financial resilience. The report focuses on the subset of findings from this evaluation that relate specifically to participants who were credit union members. It presents these findings, together with recommendations and action points, in a format designed to help credit unions use financial education and resources to increase the financial capability of their members. In particular, it promotes the use of an app, which was developed as a result of the existing evaluation.

Other participants in the original study included those from other community groups and housing associations.

The study

The education materials used in the project were provided in the form of an online short course, which could also be printed in hard copy. The materials focused on budgeting and spending decisions and on nudging people to change their behaviour. Participants were encouraged to save by setting achievable goals; for example, stopping having weekly takeaways and instead saving the money towards a holiday. Education materials were delivered to different groups of ‘financially squeezed’ individuals, on low-to-moderate incomes, through several channels:

  • Paper-based format (either with or without one-to-one support)
  • Access to an online version
  • Some groups attended interactive workshops where they received face-to-face guidance on the education materials.

Key findings

Those who participated in the project reported improvements to their individual financial capabilities and, in some cases, shared their learning to help family and friends.

Individuals made small but important changes to their spending behaviour, such as switching expensive coffee shop drinks for coffee brought from home or changing utility suppliers. These kinds of shifts in behaviour helped some people to regain control of their spending, put a little money away each month, or to focus on their longer-term financial goals.

Other key findings included the following:

  • Financial education does not always lead to better financial decisions: Although people generally knew what they ought to do to manage their spending, they often still struggled, often due to a lack of motivation or being in a poor routine.
  • Emotional factors play a significant role: Many participants were influenced by emotions to spend, even when they could not really afford to.
  • The materials: The style of the education materials, the simplicity of the content, and offering the materials in different formats, all played an important role in nudging people to make small changes.

The report also contains a long list of recommendations and action points to guide credit unions in delivering financial education.

Points to consider

  • Methodological strengths/weaknesses: There are very few details about the methodology in this paper, but there is a link given to a detailed review of the project, including the education materials developed, the methods used, details of participants, and the research findings.
  • Generalisability/ transferability: The action points and recommendations are aimed specifically at credit unions, but are likely to be transferrable to other community settings
  • Relevance: The topic of financial education and nudges to improve capability is relevant given the proportion of financially vulnerable people in the UK.
    • The report is aimed at credit unions, but the findings around how financial education can be effective in nudging people to improve some behaviours will be of use to anyone with an interest in financial capability or education, such as government, support agencies, policy makers, policy implementers or educators.

Key info

Client group
Activities and setting
Financial education delivered in a variety of ways to people defined as ‘just about managing’, with quantitative outcomes around budgeting and savings, as well as qualitative insights into lived experience.
Programme delivered by
Coventry University
Year of publication
United Kingdom
Contact information

Dr. Lindsey Appleyard, Professor Sally Dibb, Dr. Hussan Aslam

The Centre for Business in Society, Coventry University