Description of the programme
This paper focuses on Moneywise at Centrepoint, a homelessness charity based in London. Moneywise supports young people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, in dealing with existing debt, preventing future money problems and promoting overall financial capability. The programme’s aims also include training Moneywise staff, and reducing rent and service charge arrears amongst programme users to whom Centrepoint provides a home (and thereby reducing the financial burden of arrears on Centrepoint).
Moneywise is delivered through a combination of group workshops, one-to-one support and referrals to specialist advice services where necessary. Centrepoint helps around 1,300 young people a year, and each of these is assessed and given access to elements of the Moneywise programme according to need.
This was funded by the RBS Innovate project, which was set up initially to fund programmes that promote financial inclusion. Its focus has shifted towards evaluating intervention programmes, in order to better understand the evaluation process and to set up frameworks whereby they and other programmes can self-evaluate, so as to provide maximum learning.
- The study set out both to evaluate Moneywise, and to build a framework for the programme to self-evaluate in future. The evaluation that took place was both formative and summative; quantitative and qualitative.
- The quantitative element, conducted between October 2010 and February 2011, involved 51 young people filling out pre- and post- Moneywise workshop questionnaires.
- The qualitative phase included two focus groups (one with four Centrepoint staff, the other with six young Moneywise service users) and two in-depth interviews with service users who had received specialist debt advice. Two case studies were also created but ithe report does not clearly state whether these resulted from the in-depth interviews or were in addition to the interviews. The focus groups and interviews were conducted by the Moneywise project co-ordinator.
- Prior to the evaluation and building the framework, RBS Innovate held planning meetings with the Moneywise project co-ordinator and the Centrepoint Group Manager for learning.
What are the outcomes?
The quantitative phase measured the following:
- Motivation to take control of finances
- Confidence in planning and budgeting
- Confidence in managing money
Findings from the survey
The quantitative stage findings revealed that there had been:
- A 10% increase in motivation to take control of finances.
- A 12% increase in confidence in planning and budgeting.
- An 8% increase in confidence in managing money.
Findings from the focus groups
- The cost of ‘transitions’ (i.e. moving into work) perpetuates the cycle of debt and rent arrears due to the costs associated with going to work, such as travel costs, or due to the gap between the last benefit payment and being paid for the first time.
- The relationship between the Support & Development Workers and young people (the workers are both debt advisor and responsible for collecting the rent) often led to what the author terms a ‘drama triangle’. This occurred where there were conflicts in the support worker’s role: in providing support with money and debts; to push young people to take more responsibility; and to chase young people for rent arrears.
- The workshops were not well attended and did not attract those most in need of support. In addition, they were delivered only at one level, rather than as a continuous programme - and so perhaps missed an opportunity to increase attendees’ learning over time. Overall it appeared that Moneywise had not been run consistently and so had not been embedded in the wider work of Centrepoint.
- The evaluation was challenging to deliver, and it was hard to capture the skills and knowledge that participants gained.
Overall, the paper proposes an evaluation framework for Moneywise, and makes some practical suggestions, both about improving the Moneywise process and about how to improve evaluation for the future. The six key recommendations were as follows:
- Centrepoint should address the potential conflicts of interest inherent in the current organisational structures that are resulting in the ‘drama triangles’ described above. 2. Give Centrepoint staff better support, in particular with keeping up to date on changes in legislation via the intranet, and by giving them templates to help with letter writing. 3. Set up a transitions fund, ideally as a matched savings scheme, that would help young people to stay out of debt as they move from benefits into work. 4. Build and implement an assessment tool to check a young person’s financial health when they first come to Centrepoint, so they can be referred for help early on. 5. Move away from paper-based evaluation, such as questionnaires, and explore new technology that will save time and also engage young people. 6. Use more test questions before and after workshops to evaluate whether participants’ knowledge has increased.
Points to consider
Methodological limitations: The sample for the quantitative stage of 51 young people is small and so the results are unlikely to be significant. As the participants were also gaining other forms of help and support from living at Centrepoint, it is not possible to know whether the reported gains were caused solely by the Moneywise programme, or whether there were other factors. However, through this evaluation it was possible to gain useful learning on the process of delivering Moneywise.
Relevance: This paper highlights the importance of financial capability as part of the ‘toolkit’ that young people need to live independently and thrive.
Generalisability/transferability: Whilst the paper is specific to homeless or at risk young people in London, some of the insight is likely to be useful in understanding the issues faced by other vulnerable people, or by other young people who may not be in vulnerable situations but face similar financial management challenges.
Applicability: This paper will be useful to anyone with an interest in financial capability in vulnerable young people.
Wise choices - full report