Description of the programme
The Mix Money Helpline is a multi-channel financial support service for 16-25 year olds facing financial issues at key life transition stages. The Helpline is run by The Mix, and support is delivered by trained peer volunteers via the telephone, webchat and email. The helpline design was adapted to better meet the needs of young people, whose financial concerns are often intertwined with other problems. Money advice was embedded into the existing helpline support. Through the programme The Mix supported 88,446 young people.
The key research question for the evaluation was:
To what extent can The Mix’s helpline staffed by peer volunteers and the money information available on the website impact on the financial capability of 16-25 year olds?
The evaluation was designed to measure a range of outcomes. A mixed method approach was adopted, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Pre- and post- intervention surveys were completed by service users. The pre-intervention survey was completed via telephone or online, and the follow-up survey was administered online a fortnight later. The evaluation utilised non-random convenient sampling, and paired t-tests were conducted to determine whether the results showed any significant changes. In total 43 responses were received to both the initial and follow-up surveys.
A small number of volunteers were also consulted about the effects of the service on their financial capability. Four online focus groups were conducted with participants; two with 16-24 years olds who did not use The Mix and two with young people who used The Mix Money service. Each group had between 5 and 10 participants, and both males and females were represented
The evaluation also explored how the helpline and online money content was being used. The findings were intended to help The Mix develop its services. The evaluation took place between July 2017 and June 2018.
- Participants overall self-confidence in managing money did not change notably. However the findings suggest that accessing the service increased participants’ feelings of being in control of their finances, and more organised managing money day-to-day.
- The service enhanced participants’ knowledge about how to seek financial advice. Participants also reporting feeling more able to make a difference to their financial situation. A significant improvement was observed for both these measures.
- Signposting worked well, with over nine in ten respondents contacting at least some of the support organisations suggested to them.
- While there were 13,330 interactions on the helpline between July 2017 and May 2018, money was the main issue in only 825 (6%) of cases. This is lower than originally envisaged, although money was addressed as a subsidiary issue in 280 further cases.
- Telephone was the most popular channel for accessing the helpline. The two most common money issues discussed were benefits (49%) and money management (40%).
- Around one in ten users accessing The Mix’s website explored the money pages. 430,599 page views of the money related content were made during the 11 month evaluation period. The most frequently visited topics included jobseekers allowance (17%) and emergency support (14%). People were directed to The Mix’s money web content from over 25 different websites, with the largest numbers signposted from advicenow.org.uk.
- The helpline design was adapted, to enable financial support to be fully integrated into the existing helpline rather than being provided as a stand-alone service. As a result The Mix provided more holistic support to young people.
- At the time of the evaluation, 117 volunteers worked on the helpline. Some 462 applications were received between July 2017 and May 2018, with 174 volunteers starting their training, and 70 volunteers being inducted into their roles.
- Young people expressed in interest in learning more about saving for the future, budgeting, and balancing spending between essentials, their social life and other non-essentials. Young people would also like more information on taxes and financial products such as pensions. Many participants suggested money management should be taught more at school.
- Participants identified a number of common reasons for over-spending. Reasons included impulsive spending, peer pressure (to have the latest tech), societal values (consumption), and social pressure (to buy an expensive present). Participants were keen to learn how to avoid these behaviours. Participants found the information on money management provided by The Mix useful.
Points to consider
- As non-random convenient sampling was used, selection bias might have occurred.
- The majority of respondents completing the outcomes survey used the website; it is not known whether the outcomes for the helpline would be consistent.
- The small sample size (43) and lack of a comparison group limits the strength of the outcomes evidence. The short time period between the pre- and post- surveys also limits the ability of the evaluation to measure the effectiveness of the intervention. Findings cannot therefore be generalised from, and caution should be used in transferring lessons to other settings.