DebtAware is the name for the financial education work of national debt charity Debt Advice Foundation. The premise of the programme is that many people find themselves in serious debt because of a lack of financial capability, therefore, young people should be given the chance to learn such skills at the earliest opportunity.
The DebtAware programme has been running for four years. It is delivered free of charge within primary schools and aimed at 9-13 year olds, with lessons taught to children by selected fellow classmates known as Money Mentors. We have always believed that one of the most successful aspects of the programme is our peer-to-peer delivery model, but without an evaluation strategy and plan, we cannot demonstrate evidence of our impact.
Through the work of Debt Advice Foundation and DebtAware, we have created strong links with the Money Advice Service (MAS) and asked them for guidance as to how we could measure attitudinal change towards money and debt. DebtAware had produced a lot of data over its four years, but there was no robust methodology to make it useful. It was an important opportunity for our organisation then, when we were invited to be a member of the MAS CYP financial capability evaluation cohort, with support from The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP).
Not only would this work provide a way to demonstrate our programme’s effectiveness to the schools who use it, and current and future donors, it would also allow us to show our Board of Trustees that DebtAware is a worthwhile use of Debt Advice Foundation’s resources.
We started our evaluation in January this year and we will complete it in July. There are fifteen primary schools involved in the initial evaluation, meaning around 800 children aged between nine and eleven are participating.
Using the aims and objectives identified through our work with TSIP and the group, we have created a robust survey based on MAS-recommended FinCap questions. We have designed a bespoke electronic system which allows pupils to fill in the pre-and-post intervention survey remotely and we receive the results in real time.
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Schools have been happy to be involved and have had no difficulties with the baseline surveys. To maintain best practice and consistency of results, the DebtAware team have been very involved with the administration of the surveys, the training of Money Mentors, lesson rehearsals and delivery. This has made the project more labour intensive than usual and one thing others could learn from DebtAware’s experience is that it is vital to have one person who will take ownership of, and project manage, the evaluation from beginning to end.
The process of creating our evaluation strategy has provided much needed clarity on what we hope to achieve with the DebtAware model and our next steps are to really maintain that impetus. We look forward to analysing our results and may even build on them by looking at a more longitudinal study in the future.