Evaluation Scotland Wales
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What Works Fund Evidence Analysis By Life Stage

Evidence type: Insight i


MAS wanted to provide more evidence about what works in financial capability interventions across target groups and consumer segments identified in the UK Financial Capacity Strategy and to share learning with various stakeholders. The What Works Fund was based on 16 ‘What Works Questions’ that would help fill gaps in the existing evidence base.

The study

In 2016, MAS awarded 65 grants to non-profit organisations across the UK to test what works for whom and in what circumstances through the £11.3 million What Works Fund. The programme prioritised projects that would help to provide more evidence relating to specific target groups or sectors. 48 projects are included in the report. Two-thirds had tested new approaches, while others were expanding or evaluating existing projects. All projects aligned evaluations with the UK Financial Capability Strategy and used its Evaluation Toolkit. MAS’s Learning Partner undertook a systematic analysis of the 55 reports received by 2018; this report is a summary of that exercise and so presents themes rather than statistical breakdowns.

Key findings

  • There is a strong focus on the “Struggling” consumer segment among the projects and less evidence for Young Adults and Financial Difficulties.
  • Common themes for “what works” are: engaging participants; working with partners; financial capability messengers; and the content of financial capability interventions.
  • Children and young people: Trainer-led group sessions in mainstream schools can help build students’ mindset (notably confidence) and their understanding of products and concepts, while peer-led group sessions helped build financial capability in those in non-mainstream settings. Training teachers in financial education improved students’ outcomes in mindset, ability and connection.
  • Young adults: It is important to match training and content to differing individual circumstances. Trainer-led group sessions increased self-reported confidence and willingness to discuss and better equipped to manage money. Peer-led sessions can be effective but require effective training for peer educators, as well as wider support to help attendance. Young adults also value “the voice of experience”.
  • Working age: Using “teachable moments” related to life or financial events can increase receptiveness. Using technology such as apps is not necessarily sufficient to build capability. Combining it with one-to-one support was more effective and particularly helped to build mindset and ability.
  • Older people in retirement: Trainer-led group sessions were popular at helping people to maximise their income, notably in mindset and ability. Sessions about wills and funerals was less popular. Using training in digital skills was a useful hook to get older people into thinking about financial capability. Such projects were particularly good at building confidence, but also mindset, ability and connection. Participants did not necessarily choose to use online money management afterwards.
  • Financial difficulties: Debt crises offered “teachable moments”, while investing in referral routes was effective. Local welfare reform events offered possibilities to co-locate a range of advice and guidance services.
  • Increasing scale: About 6 in 10 projects planned to carry on. Those interested in increasing scale were most concerned about future funding, recruiting, training and retaining staff, ensuring consistent standards, being realistic about partnership lead-in times, and proportionate monitoring and evaluation.

Points to consider

Methodological limitations

  • This is an overview of findings. The report includes links to more detailed findings and approaches.
  • The projects were mostly showed evidence of change or some evidence of causality.

Generalisability/ transferability:

  • See details of individual projects, but use of the Evaluation Toolkit ensures comparability of results.