Today we launch the resources created by Mencap Liverpool through their Easy Money project. The Trust’s chief executive, Joanna Elson OBE, highlights the project’s outcomes and learning for the sector.
We are delighted to have been able to partner with Mencap Liverpool through our Innovation Grants Programme funding. I had the pleasure of visiting Liverpool to see the Easy Money project in action, and was impressed with how much beneficiaries were involved in the development of the materials. The trust and relationships the staff have with their members is something they have worked hard at, which in turn helped to achieve project success.
Over the course of the year, Mencap Liverpool have produced Easy Read fact sheets that can be used as standalone resource. The fact sheets are specifically created for people with learning disabilities and/or on the autistic spectrum. Through the use of easy read images and minimal text, the materials explain financial concepts in an easy and balanced way. The fact sheets cover topics including; budgeting, opening a bank account, borrowing, benefits (Employment and Support Allowance, and Jobseeker’s Allowance), and saving on fuel and water, etc. The fact sheets can be downloaded from Wiseradviser here.
Here is a snippet of one of the factsheets:
In addition to the fact sheets, the project also developed an Easy Money workshop programme; a series of eight sessions that are specially aimed at supporting the client group to increase their financial literacy.
In developing the materials the project achieved positive outcomes with their beneficiaries. The project focused on supporting relatively low numbers of beneficiaries and spending time with them to understand their progress. Feedback showed the courses had resulted in an increased understanding of money matters and confidence in a number of areas of budget management. In terms of greater financial security, several participants reported that their improved awareness of money matters had enabled them firstly; to feel more secure, and secondly; to change their behaviours in order to make savings that they hadn’t been able to achieve before.
Feedback from participants included comments such as:
“I am more confident now. Before I was struggling to save but now I have stopped wasting my money and I look for the best deals when I am shopping.”
“I am more confident about how to keep my money safe but it also helps me to know where I can go if I do get into trouble.”
Two key elements that enabled the project’s success were Mencap Liverpool’s strength at forging relationships with local fin cap partners, as well as member involvement in the project. A practical manifestation of beneficiary involvement has been the peer support where some members have volunteered to help at workshops. In terms of partnership working, this was a win-win situation all round. The project beneficiaries were able to receive more support in completing actions after workshops, e.g. completing benefits applications, and the development of the resources benefitted from partner’s expert knowledge. For the partners the experience of working with the client group was something they did not have before and the opportunity to learn has enabled them to understand their own client’s needs better.
“We’ve really appreciated having the support of such an innovative and understanding funder. The Money Advice Trust’s approach gave us space and the resources that we needed to work with our beneficiaries, in order to co-create our fact sheets and workshop programme. We now have a much greater understanding of how people with a learning disability experience financial issues and the help they need to increase their financial literacy. We hope the resources we’ve created together are helpful for a wide range of vulnerable groups across the country.” Sarah Jones, Chief Executive Mencap Liverpool.
Like any pilot project, there is learning and recommendations we can take forward. The workshop sessions are primarily for people who have some level of financial independence and are managing their own money. There is an opportunity for more basic level resources to be created for people who need more support, as a stepping stone towards self-management of finances.
Another area of learning was that without one-to-one support, beneficiaries would not have achieved the outcomes they did. Tailored support was essential in enabling beneficiaries to complete practical actions and build the emotional resilience to deal with financial issues.
We welcome feedback on the resources we have published today and hope they are of use to stakeholders working specifically with the client group, as well as providing practical tools to other general service providers that may support clients with these specific needs.