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Evaluation case study: an evaluation of 1625 Independent People’s Cash Pointers service

What was the aim of the project?

1625 Independent People (1625ip) is the main provider of supported housing for young homeless people in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. For the past four years its Cash Pointers service has helped young people develop the skills and confidence to manage their money and finances. The service worked with people in lots of different ways:

  • one-to-one work
  • creative activities (cooking, furniture upcycling etc)
  • educative workshops
  • peer education
  • community partnership projects.

Who was involved in the project?

1625ip led the Cash Pointers service, funded by the Big Lottery.

What was the aim of the evaluation?

Cash Pointers staff had noticed that as well as service users demonstrating increased confidence in managing their finances, they also appeared to derive a broader sense of wellbeing. The purpose of this evaluation was to deepen understanding of how these wellbeing-related outcomes emerged and what Cash Pointer’s contribution to them was, so this learning could be harnessed and intentionally weaved into future projects.

Who was involved in the evaluation?

The evaluation team at the University of the West of England (UWE) worked with 1625ip staff who had been involved with the Cash Pointers project aswell as young people who had accessed the service. The evaluation team consisted of:

  • Jon Fieldhouse, Senior Lecturer, Department of Allied Health Professions, UWE
  • Vanessa Parmenter, Senior Lecturer, Department of Allied Health Professions, UWE
  • Pam Moule, Professor of Health Services Research (Service Evaluation), UWE.

What did they do?

The evaluation team conducted in-depth face to face interviews with six Cash Pointers service users, plus one phone interview. They explored how service users felt their lives had been impacted by Cash Pointers, and what had worked well. Themes were identified from the service user interviews and shared at a focus group comprising four Cash Pointers staff, to develop a rounded picture of what Cash Pointers’ input had been.

What did they find?

The evaluation team found that Cash Pointers’ effectiveness lies in its ‘double impact’, providing both practical support (regarding finances) and a key restorative, psychologically-informed relationship at a crucial developmental stage in young people’s lives. Cash Pointers helped young people to acquire the necessary income, to manage debt, and to budget so that basic living needs could be met. This led to immediate physical health gains as well as improved wellbeing.

Simultaneously, the close working relationship they enjoyed with Cash Pointers staff was experienced as personally validating. Young people valued this relationship for being non-judgemental, empowering, and built on trust and for creating a sense of safety and security in marked contrast to the fear of homelessness, exploitation, bullying, or violence many were used to.

From this secure foundation – and using the life skills they had learned through Cash Pointers input – their self-esteem grew, as did their self-determination to take more control of their own lives. Renewed hope and greater opportunity enabled them to start pursuing personal goals, develop more satisfying relationships, and engage in rewarding life roles. This included being able to manage existing mental and physical health problems more effectively.

Young people felt Cash Pointers’ impact was based on ease and flexibility of access, speed of results, a persistent ‘outreaching’ approach, a trusting person-to-person connection, the impact of a well-known Cash Pointers ‘brand’, good inter-agency liaison, staff commitment and dedication, and Cash Pointers staff being ‘holders of hope’ when they could not hold it for themselves.

Cash Pointers staff felt success was based on navigating a pathway between getting quick results and building trust with young people, and getting the right balance between doing things for them and doing things with them. Successful case work was supported by a strong team-working ethos, flexibility and autonomy in case-work, positive relationship building, good in-house training in financial advice work and psychologically-informed practice, a strong alignment of personal and organisational values, supportive management and an organisational culture of reflective practice.

Who was the evaluation shared with and why?

The evaluation was shared with 1625 Independent People as well as the service users involved. A dissemination event was held in March 2017 and Jon Fieldhouse from the UWE evaluation team, led a workshop to present the findings. The event was attended by 1625ip’s partner organisations, Mayor Martin Rees as well as community development workers in the sector.

What next?

Further dissemination of the evaluation is planned and the Evaluation Lead for 1625ip is looking to co-author some publications with Jon. The UWE evaluation team have also been invited to evaluate a follow up project.

Cash Pointers was a finite service. It was funded by Big Lottery funding for four years, ending in April 2017. However, 1625ip’s experience of developing financial capability in young people as well as learning from this evaluation has helped inform new work including:

  • Cash Pointers Upfront Peer Education which has grown out of the ideas of young homeless people in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. They have said that if someone had told them what they know now about leaving home and being homeless, it would have made a big difference to the choices they made. The Peer Education sessions help young people to learn how to manage money to avoid getting into difficulty and get help when necessary and are run by young people who have been homeless and/or experienced financial difficulty and want to make a difference to the lives of other young people in their local area.
  • Money Tree where a Coordinator and volunteers work alongside 1625ip support staff providing practical and informal education around money matters for young people. Trained community volunteers support young people with activities like opening bank accounts, personal budgets and understanding contracts for things like mobile phones.

What has changed as a result?

This evaluation has helped 1625ip to learn how the wider wellbeing related outcomes were achieved, in order to build on this good practice for the new projects mentioned above.

1625ip have also now embedded financial skills into their core service delivery and obtained Big Lottery funding for a Cash Pointers Legacy post to provide free training on ‘Young People and Money’ to professionals working with young people.

From UWE’s perspective, the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences’ service evaluation team has deepened it’s experience of working with the third sector, helping it to become more responsive to the needs of voluntary and community organisations.

Successes and challenges

Successes

The evaluators were able to access some very vulnerable young people who gave frank interviews.

A good relationship was built with 1625ip which has led to UWE being invited to evaluate a new project and co-author some publications. 1625ip see the value in accessing higher educational institutions to help advance their understanding of their own practice, give credibility to their work and bring the findings into the public domain.

Challenges

The service users were vulnerable and ellusive which meant it was difficult to conduct large numbers of interviews, however the interviews held were very in-depth.

The intention was to hold a focus group for the service users to discuss the themes, however, this idea was dropped when there was a lack of response from the young people. It is likely this was partly down to the fact that they were sharing very personal information during their interviews.

For further information

Visit the 1625ip website.