The IMA’s Best Financial Capability Project Award 2016, sponsored by PayPlan.
Presented to The Hyde Group for The Money House project, this is a scheme that aims to raise financial awareness and confidence in young adults, offering free advice to those under 25 years old.
Over 400 young people have attended so far, and 90% say their financial confidence and budgeting has increased.
Here we interview the winners and delve a little deeper into the award-winning project:
How does it feel to win the award?
We’re really happy to have won the award – particularly after all the positive feedback we’ve received from our participants. After all the hard work, we feel very proud to have the project recognised by fellow advice and financial capability professionals.
Sum up the project in your own words – What you did/why you did it?
The Money House project was set up with BIG Lottery money four years ago to improve the life chances of young adults by raising financial awareness and budgeting confidence. The aim was that this would lead to reduced levels of rent arrears, evictions and homelessness.
In the London Borough of Greenwich, the area in which we operate, social housing tenants are four times more likely to be evicted for rent arrears if they are under the age of 25, and half of those seeking help with homelessness are under this age bracket. Our aim was to educate young people to help them avoid these issues.
We created a training course covering key things (such as budgeting, tenancy rights and responsibilities, benefits, borrowing money responsibly etc.) that a person would need to know to live independently – we even teach them how to cook budget meals from scratch.
Our Money House Graduates often tell us that they should have been taught these things in school and are surprised that this is not part of the curriculum as it is so essential.
What do you think made the project successful?
There are a few things that we believe really contributed to the success of the project. Firstly, the skills and expertise of our trainers, who are experienced with dealing and engaging with young adults, has ensured the project fulfils its aim effectively.
The engaging approach the training uses tries to make topics that could be dry more interesting, by using real life exercises (like reading an electric meter) and games, such as our Needs and Wants game, where participants analyse their spending habits, calculate their associated costs over a week and a year, encouraging them to make more informed decisions as to what spending is essential and what could be cut. This is an activity that works well with all ages and abilities.
We hoped to make the course as interactive and engaging as possible. Delivering the training from a real flat, which the young people seem to love, has definitely helped, as it’s something different and as far from school as you can get.
Delivering the training from the flat really gave the young people going through the process a sense of context, and helped to create a relaxed home away from home atmosphere. We found this atmosphere encouraged open discussions and more receptive groups.
Lastly, our success is in no small part due to the huge support given to us by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, who recommended the training to their clients, referring them to us and encouraging attendance. Their endorsement of the project really made a difference. The training was even a mandatory part of a young person’s journey to getting their first tenancy.
Have you spotted any trends amongst the participants?
Our target group of under 25s is a difficult group to target. The majority of young adults we deal with come from the care and support system, so tend to have chaotic lifestyles. Attendance is a constant challenge that The Money House team and the referring organisation often have to deal with. Although we have a successful retention rate once individuals start, getting them there in the first place is the real obstacle.
There are many reasons why young people do not want to attend, including fear of the unknown, being anxious about meeting new people, and a lack of motivation. Our trainers often feedback that a lot of the participants think there is nothing new to learn about money. However, when they complete the training they realise there was a lot they were not aware of, and their misconceptions are put straight.
For example, many start the course with little knowledge of what they will be responsible for when they are renting a property, and are surprised when they are told about water rates, utilities, council tax and other bills. Understanding these financial responsibilities can lead to a better consideration of whether they are ready to move out of care and support at that time.
What support do you think is lacking? What support could be provided to prevent money issues?
There is a lot of help and support out there in terms of money advice such as one-to-one sessions offered by our partners, Greenwich Citizens Advice Bureau and Meridian Money Advice, and budget planning support, provided by social care professionals to young adults in care. However, it is the way in which it is provided that often puts people off, particularly young people. It’s worth bearing in mind that much of the support is provided as a solution, which means that people are already getting into money issues and are seeking help, rather than getting adequate support to prevent them from struggling in the first place.
The Money House believes a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach is more beneficial, especially given that many of the people we deal with will only get one chance at social housing. We want to ensure they make the best of it and sustain their tenancy.
What are your future plans for the campaign?
Unfortunately, after four years of delivery, our BIG Lottery funding for the project runs out in December 2016. We are seeking further sources of funding to continue and expand the project, so that the benefits are not lost and we can continue this award-winning work. With any luck, this win will boost exposure for the project and encourage more young people to get in touch for support, as well as source new streams of funding.