Description of the programme:
One of the recommendations from a commission that looked into family violence in Victoria, Australia, was to support the expansion of initiatives that deliver financial literacy training and education for victims of family violence. In 2018 the Adult Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board approved $300,000AUS for the Women’s Information Referral Exchange (WIRE). In Phase 1 of the project, WIRE developed a pre- accredited financial wellbeing course for women called ‘SARA’ (Skilled Aware Resourceful Active).
The target audience for the SARA course is women who want to improve their control of money matters and improve their financial wellbeing. The course is designed to be particularly suitable for victims and survivors of family violence. The SARA course can be delivered in weekly four-hour sessions over eight weeks. The topics covered in these eight sessions included participants’ relationships with money, their money ‘journeys’, talking about money, managing debt, saving, accessing financial services and their future financial goals.
WIRE delivered two-day ‘train the trainer’ workshops in five locations across Victoria between February and April 2019, with 59 ‘Learn Local’ practitioners participating. To assist the practitioners delivering the SARA course, WIRE produced a facilitator manual. This included the course content, participant activities and information resources for facilitators.
Smartsteps was commissioned by the Department of Justice and Community Safety to conduct an evaluation of the SARA programme to assess its appropriateness and effectiveness. The evaluation had two main purposes:
- Quality improvements – rapid feedback was used by WIRE at each stage of the evaluation to improve the course and the workshops.
- Overall conclusions – the evaluation aimed to draw conclusions about the effectiveness and suitability of the SARA course materials, as well as the ‘train the trainer’ workshops.
The evaluation used a range of data collection methods, including:
- A review of international good practice for financial wellbeing programmes for victims/survivors of family violence;
- A review of the course materials;
- A review of the workshop outlines and the practitioner manual;
- A survey of 54 participants at the ‘train the trainer’ workshops’;
- Interviews with nine of these participants;
- Observations of two ‘train the trainer’ workshops.
- The evaluation concluded that overall the programme had been very successful. WIRE had produced a high-quality course that met the specific needs of vulnerable women.
- The ‘train the trainer’ workshops gave practitioners the necessary knowledge and skills that they needed to deliver the course effectively.
- However the evaluation identified several issues that need to be addressed to ensure the course is sustainable, including general funding levels for the costs of running the course, and more specific funding to ensure the correct target audience is reached (for example, women who speak limited English, or women who need help with childcare costs).
- The specific findings included:
- The mode of delivery of the programme was highly appropriate for the needs of the learner.
- The materials were fit for purpose and effective, though it is necessary to translate the content into other languages.
- The ‘train the trainer’ workshops were successful in providing the correct training for issues concerning both financial capability and family violence.
- Almost all of the trainees (95%) had a ‘moderately high’ or ‘high’ level of confidence in their ability to deliver the course following the training.
- There were significant issues concerning the financial sustainability of the programme, with numerous concerns raised about whether the current funding model would allow the intervention to continue running in the medium-to-long term.
- Partner organisations must work together to access more funding and explore options to provide wrap-around support for participants.
- SARA must be announced as a priority programme in Victoria, as it makes an important ongoing contribution to addressing family violence.
- Trainers from other established programmes should be contracted to run some of the courses, to ensure there are enough highly skilled practitioners available.
- Future planning must consider how the training can be made available to a wider range of women, including women with little English, women with low literacy, those without affordable transport and those who need help with childcare costs.
- A further evaluation should be conducted on the second phase of the SARA pilot project, to provide an evidence base and insights into improvements that could be made, and crucially the possibility of scaling-up the programme.
Points to consider:
Methodological strengths and limitations:
- This evaluation is based on a small number of participants, and therefore more information is needed before using this as a basis to scale-up the intervention.
- While these findings are from an Australian programme, many of the learning outcomes may be transferrable to a UK context.
- The evaluation is of significant interest to people interested in delivering financial education to vulnerable groups, and in particular to those targeting victims of family violence.