Description of the programme
The ‘Your Money Your Home’ project (YMYH) aims to improve people’s ability to manage money well on a daily basis, during significant life events and through periods of financial difficulty, as well as preparing them for the introduction of Universal Credit. The project is being led by the Wales Co-operative Centre (WCC) and delivered with partners from Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent Citizens Advice, and Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff and Merthyr Local Authorities; all of whom are working in conjunction with local landlords.
YMYH delivers one-to-one support/advice to working age adults who are living in the private rented sector and currently have their rent paid directly to their landlord.
From March 2017 YMYH attempted to engage with 942 tenants across the four Local Authority areas, and contact was made with 578 of them. Of these, 351 went on to receive advice and support from a YMYH Financial Inclusion Officer (FI officer) and completed a baseline questionnaire, with 100 tenants completing the follow-up questionnaire.
The core research question for the evaluation was:
Can delivery of targeted one-to-one interventions, to private rental sector tenants who are at risk of falling into problem debt, help this group to improve their financial capability and resilience through creating positive behavioural change?
To assess this, a range of methods were employed:
- 351 baseline and 100 follow-up surveys;
- 13 interviews (mainly by telephone) with tenants;
- 13 interviews with key stakeholders from the four Local Authorities;
- Two focus groups, each with four Financial Inclusion Officers.
The evaluation took place between August 2017 and May 2018.
The evaluation sought to assess the extent to which YMYH has influenced awareness and understanding of:
- How to make a budget and check available income;
- Imminent changes under Universal Credit;
- The consequences of debt and rent arrears;
- Banking products, savings and credit;
- Where to go for financial help and advice.
Tenant financial capability:
- The percentage of people who worried about their financial situation a ‘great deal’ dropped from 38% at baseline to 25% at follow-up. According to the authors, this change is statistically significant.
- There were small increases in tenants feeling confident talking to people who can give them advice, as well as in negotiating with creditors.
- After the intervention fewer tenants reported financial difficulties, with a statistically significant drop from 27% to 14%.
- However, some tenants lacked an understanding of the consequences of debt and priority debts. The authors report an over reliance on high interest ‘pay day’ loans (as opposed to using Credit Unions). Generally there was a mixed picture about the impact of the intervention on tenant’s understanding of how to deal with problem debt.
Impact on relationships between local authorities and landlords:
- Landlords in the participating Local Authorities are now more aware of Universal Credit and its impact on them and their tenants.
- The project has improved relationships with landlords in the area, and it is hoped that Local Authorities can build upon this success in the future.
Management of the project:
- The project seems to have been well-managed and organised, and partners appreciated regular steering group meetings which allowed them to share experiences with other partners and stakeholders.
- YMYH supported 351 tenants. Despite exceeding the target of 338, engaging tenants in the first instance and then continuing engagement was challenging.
- In some cases, tenants required longer-term in-depth support to address issues that were beyond the scope of the project. Allowing the FI Officers to take a holistic, individual approach ensured that issues around health and wellbeing were addressed, and tenants were able to concentrate on improving their financial capability.
- The evaluators estimate the scheme cost around £1,000 for each tenant who undertook a financial assessment.
Points to consider
Methodological strengths and limitations:
- While significance testing is used, it is not referred to consistently throughout the report.
- There is no control group to compare the observed changes with (i.e. a group where there was no intervention), so attributing causality to the intervention is difficult.
- This research was only undertaken in Wales, and as such may not be transferable to the rest of the UK.
- This report is relevant to all stakeholders and policymakers with an interest in the financial wellbeing of tenants in the private rental sector, particularly those interested in financial education initiatives among this cohort.