Hope for generations Helping the UK’s most disadvantaged families get on with their money

About the Family Fortunes Programme

The Money Advice Services provided funding and support to the Campaign for Learning to develop and test an innovative family approach to financial capability called Family Fortunes. The programme, evaluated by the Institute of Education at UCL, provides new evidence of what works in financial education for families.

  • 91% of children said that the programme had helped them learn about money
  • 71% of EAL parents experienced a change in at least one of three financial capability areas after attending FF programmes
  • 95% of parents would recommend the Family Fortunes programme to other parents
  • 64% of parents with EAL experienced positive changes in their money management behaviours by the end of the FF course in one or more of the 8 indicators.

This is the Campaign for Learning’s Story

About the What Works Fund

As a core part of its work supporting the Financial Capability Strategy for the UK, The Money Advice Service launched the £11 million What Works Fund in 2016 to:

  • establish the most effective ways of helping different groups manage their money
  • find out what works to increase financial capability.

In its initial phase, the Fund awarded grants to 65 pilot projects across the UK directly impacting over 40,000 people. The fund rigorously evaluated the impact of the projects, including the Family Fortunes programme, so that lessons learned can be used to increase effectiveness, attract funding and scale up interventions to help millions of people across the UK.

The Campaign for Learning is an independent charity committed to improving people’s life chances through learning. We help create opportunities for change by developing, piloting, testing, running and supporting all kinds of new learning initiatives. We aim to open up learning to everyone to enable people to become happier, healthier and wealthier.

For lifelong change: Family learning

How can we improve the life chances of people least likely to learn? Alongside many different partners, we find answers to this question through family learning programmes. Our joint initiatives vary in complexity and scale, enabling adults and children to learn together, and parents and carers to support their children’s learning. Together, we generate fresh ideas, evaluate new approaches and share findings, best practices and resources.

Looking for answers in times of hardship

“Low-income families are under increasing financial pressure, but often don’t seek help until they reach crisis point,” explains Juliette Collier, national director at Campaign for Learning. Several problems are providing growing challenges to the financial welfare of families, with food poverty a major public health concern. “The number of three-day emergency food supplies given out by Trussell Trust foodbanks is over 50 times more today than a decade ago.”

Foodbanks are a vital, but reactive measure. Campaign for Learning saw family learning as a preventative answer and an opportunity to help build a more inclusive, equal society. For more than 20 years, the organisation has been championing lifelong learning at a national level with partners, generating and testing fresh ideas and sharing the findings, best practices and resources.

Like any skill, people can learn how to manage their money. “We were confident that developing a bold new family learning programme could help, improving the financial wellbeing and resilience of disadvantaged families.” Family learning enables adults and children to learn together, and parents and carers to learn how to support their children’s learning. A former family learning tutor, Juliette believes passionately in the power of learning to transform lives. The organisation has seen successes in several areas, recently in family science and getting girls into STEM. “We focused on families living in poverty with English as an additional language (EAL), where action was desperately needed and outcomes could have the most impact.”

"The What Works Fund was an invaluable support that enabled us to develop the Family Fortunes programme to help families"

The Trussell Trust reports a sharp increase in food aid from 25,899 in 2008/09 to 1,332,952 in 2017/18.

The Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales dealt with 2,397 new debt problems every day during August 2018 (Reference https://themoneycharity.org.uk/money-statistics/)

There were 4.1 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2016-17. That’s 30 per cent of children, or 9 in a classroom of 30. (Reference http://cpag.org.uk/content/child-poverty-facts-and-figures )

Children in large families are at a far greater risk of poverty – 42 per cent of children living in families with 3 or more children live in poverty. (Reference http://cpag.org.uk/content/child-poverty-facts-and-figures )

Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one person works. (Reference http://cpag.org.uk/content/child-poverty-facts-and-figures )

Working families stand to lose £930 a year on average from cuts in the tax credit system and £420 a year from cuts to Universal Credit (Reference http://cpag.org.uk/content/austerity-generation-impact-decade-cuts-family-incomes-and-child-poverty )

Building on a network of trust

Campaign for Learning maximised the programme’s impact using existing relationships and infrastructure. The organisation works with family learning delivery organisations through the National Family Learning Network. This group is made up of professionals, including family learning practitioners, English as a second language (ESOL) tutors and educators, many employed by local authorities. “Most intermediaries are adult community learning specialists. Others may have moved from schools into adult teaching,” says Juliette. “Adult community learning specialists are found all over the country, where they support around 50,000 disadvantaged families every year. They have gained a lot of trust, have strong community ties with our proposed demographic and links with local schools. These were all fundamental factors to delivering Family Fortunes.”

Previously, the organisation had run a small-scale money management project, funded by the Santander Foundation. “We were aware of the sensitivities and issues when discussing people’s financial capability. We knew our approach was a good one and worth developing into a nationwide family learning programme, focused for the first time on personal finances.”

Picking up money habits from parents

When it comes to money habits, the home environment matters. This is where children see, talk and learn about money. As children grow up, what they pick up has the potential to shape how they deal with their finances for the rest of their lives.

“The Family Fortunes programme tackles a key recommendation from the UK government’s Financial Capability Strategy to provide opportunities for children to learn more about money at home,” explains Miles Debrah from the Money Advice Service, who oversaw the project. “It looks to answer a vital question: how can we help parents become the financial role models and teachers their children need?” The alternative is endlessly damaging. Lacking financial role models in the home can create intergenerational cycles of poor money management skills.

Training tutors to fill a learning gap

While tutors and intermediaries were experienced in working with families to support learning, few were financial literacy specialists; they needed skills and, often, confidence to deliver effective money management sessions. “Financial capability has been regarded as a specialist training area,” says Juliette. “It’s often linked to debt advice and financial crisis support.” The organisation wanted to be proactive, preventing personal financial problems in the first place and helping people not just get by, but get on with their money.

This shift in thinking required a fresh approach. “We had to train tutors to deliver effective financial capability learning to families. This meant piloting approaches and resources. We needed new ideas that would motivate and equip parents and children to develop the skills, understanding, mind-set and behaviours to manage their money well and make informed financial decisions.”

The programme at a glance

The model

  • A preventative approach, using family learning pedagogy
  • Inclusive in nature: the term ‘family’ was left open so adults and children with a range of relationships could participate
  • Providing training for family learning tutors and intermediaries
  • Targeting EAL families, with children aged 7–11 years
  • A free programme, mainly delivered in primary school classrooms

The structure

  • A flexible 10-hour programme, with a lesson plan for each session
  • Resources and activities for parents and for children with parents
  • Children join parents for the last half hour of each session, where possible, or parents are guided on how to run the final activity at home
  • A ‘take-away’ home learning activity for the family

Learning what works

Delivering the programme is half the project’s story. Family Fortunes is also a major research project, carried out by the Institute of Education at UCL. This work has evaluated the programme’s effectiveness: how training family learning tutors has improved financial capability outcomes for parents and their children who have English as an additional language. The research findings will provide much-needed evidence on working with ethnic minority families to increase financial capability, and identify opportunities to develop the programme further.

Data and feedback were captured throughout the project in a mix of ways, including surveys, class observations and post-course follow-up telephone interviews with parents and tutors.

Taking on tough challenges

Lasting, positive change isn’t achieved easily.

“Tutors who were not financial capability specialists were not always confident that they could make a difference on the delicate subject of money,” says Juliette. “We needed to show that the programme wasn’t about sharing people’s financial details, but how parents could support their children in life with money skills; how they could help their children understand the difference between needs and wants, for example.”

To date, almost half of the trained intermediaries have run sessions. This number is increasing weekly, outside of the project timeframe. Family recruitment is the most crucial part of the programme and it was never going to be straightforward. To help here, the facilitator toolkit included an invitation template from child to parent or carer. “Children love their parents coming into the classroom and we’ve found this a good way of engaging parents.”

“My child is very excited on Mondays because he gets to spend time with me on the course. He looks forward to the homework what we have to do for the course.”

Some schools ran multiple programmes; others didn’t fill the sessions. “It’s important that families don’t feel this is an extended maths lesson,” says Juliette. The tutors’ relationship with local schools is key, as is the schools’ relationship with parents. Inevitably, sensitivities around personal finances come into play. Attending such a course may feel like admitting being in financial trouble. “Confident tutors, committed to the programme, were the most successful in recruiting numbers. ”This often involved being out in the playground, drumming up business. One of the findings was positioning learning around saving, rather than managing, money. “We know from family survey results that using resources, such as money-saving websites, led to significant financial gains.”

Hafsha Shaikh, Smartlyte

Supporting the target families also presented language, heritage and cultural challenges. Campaign for Learning worked with creative training delivery partner, Smartlyte, to design, pilot and develop the programme. The specialist provider is experienced in engaging hard-to-reach communities, including non-English speakers, with a vision to raise the ambitions and aspirations of entire generations. Hafsha Shaikh at Smartlyte gives a sense of the engagement task: “I’ve been working with a family who has been in the UK for 30 years and the furthest the mother has been is down the bottom of her road. If we want to make real change, we need to reach out to parents such as these.”

Hardest hit, softest targets

“In one community where English wasn’t well spoken, there were several families who trusted a man they referred to us ‘Uncle’.He would offer his help when Universal Credit went into the mothers’ bank accounts, withdrawing the cash for them. While outwardly friendly, he was keeping a hefty sum back for himself until he got caught.”

Hafsha Shaikh, Smartlyte

Beginning in Birmingham

Campaign for Learning and Smartlyte carried out consultation in three Birmingham schools, involving around 70 parents from a range of BME communities, including Indian, Parkistani, Somalian, Sudanese and Yemeni. Romanian communities also took part. Birmingham is the ninth most deprived local authority in the UK, with almost half of the city’s BME children living in poverty (43% in 2013). “The schools were either in the inner city or in disadvantaged areas nearby,” explains Hafsha. “We thought long and hard about how we could open up the conversation. EAL families don’t like to talk about money, especially in front of their neighbours at their children’s school.”

“Salim [Smartlyte co-founder] led the process,” explains Juliette. “He asked two pertinent questions: what does happiness mean to you and what does success mean to you?” From these questions and further exploration, the team could gather valuable insights, including what prevented families from achieving their goals and where money was going out each month.

“Everyone involved wanted to contribute,” adds Hafsha. “In one school in a particularly deprived area, we had mums, dads, babies in buggies and grandparents.” This understanding shaped the pilot. “We could make sure the content was really hitting the mark. We also made the programme modular in structure for busy parents.” Each session was stand-alone, so there was no sense of falling behind if a workshop was missed one week. The course was designed to run for 10 hours over five sessions, but the resources could be used flexibly to suit the tutors’ setting and families supported.

Materials were refined throughout the pilot phase. This involved 51 parents and over 70 children in five schools in Sparkbrook and surrounding areas of Birmingham. The pilot schools were shortlisted based on the numbers of pupils whose first language wasn’t English, as high as 9 in 10 of the pupil population. “The pilot phase was invaluable,” adds Juliette. “We were able to test all the materials we developed and sharpen them.” After the pilot, the materials remained largely unchanged.

Equipping tutors

Tutors were trained on a one-day course, using a selection of materials from the facilitator toolkit. This included ‘People Bingo’ as an icebreaker, a quiz to identify the participants’ money personality type and other course activities. “During each tutor training session, we reinforced professional boundaries on debt and legal advice,” says Juliette. Tutors were able to familiarise themselves with free national and local support services in these specialist areas.

“It’s great and I can’t wait to deliver it.”

Tutor feedback

Inside the facilitator toolkit

  • Guidance on setting up the programme
  • Resources to help children create personal invitations to their parents
  • Editable poster/flyer and a template letter to go home in school bags
  • Lesson plans and handouts, with clear outcomes and objectives for parent and child
  • Activity sheets
  • Jargon buster glossary of financial terms
  • Parent/carer questionnaire
  • Children’s survey

Where Family Fortunes took place

  • Barnsley
  • Birmingham
  • Derby
  • Greater London: Brent, Croydon, Redbridge, Southwark, Streatham, Sutton
  • Leeds
  • Leicester
  • Loughborough
  • Melton
  • Northamptonshire
  • Nottingham
  • Rochdale
  • Sandwell
  • Scunthorpe
  • Worcestershire

What participants learned

Course content

  • Money-saving tips, tools and resources to cut household spending
  • How to help your child through fun family maths activities, including addition, subtraction, decimals and percentages
  • Understanding ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’
  • Budgeting, including keeping a spending diary
  • Planning ahead and building up savings
  • Getting paperwork organised
  • Combatting Pester Power!

Meet Karen, a programme tutor

Karen Wilkinson, Family Learning & Partnership Coordinator for Children's Services at Rochdale Borough Council, invited three of her tutors to attend the programme’s training in Birmingham: “The financial aspect was really different and the training came with a full toolkit, plus weekly webinars leading up to us running the programme.”

Between July and December 2017, Rochdale Borough Council delivered eight programmes as part of the research, and then a further six. “Schools asked us to run more programmes. It’s been so popular, and we’ve also adapted the programme for earlier years, running courses in Children’s Centres and local nurseries. We’ve even put on an adult session.”

The Family Fortunes programme is now part of Rochdale Borough Council’s core adult learning programme.

Family Fortunes in numbers

In parents’ words

“Every time I go shopping with my son he tells me, “Don’t get that, get this, it’s more cheaper.”
“I learnt about my bills and how to use my money better. I speak to my children how to manage money better.”
“The most useful bit was learning about things going on different websites that I didn’t know about; how you can save money...”
“I now make my shopping lists that are in budget. I am now more aware of what my incoming and outgoings are and this has made a lot of difference.”
“This course seems to have been made for me. I really love it, even though I have not perfected handling money/expenses, but I have come so conscious of it, and with a short time I will make a lot of impact on how I manage money and expenses.”
It was a very helpful course for me especially. We are asylum seekers so every penny counts. It helped me to plan ahead which I didn’t do before.
I now shop around instead of shopping at one place.
I had a bad habit of buying in bulk. I don’t do that anymore. Only get what I need.
I now watch every penny. The diary sheet has helped me account for this.
My children are thinking before spending now. My eldest son is helping me to buy cheaper items at Asda.
I am confident now about planning. I can now persuade my children to buy things according to the budget available.
My behaviour has changed now whilst spending money. I think about what is important and is a must to buy.
It was a good course. I got lots of information about budgeting. My daughter is more aware of where and how money comes in. She will think twice about buying something.
I look at the websites and look around in supermarkets to find bargains.

Outcomes and impact

A total of 85 tutors attended the 7 training events. Two thirds rated the ‘excellent and a third rated ‘good’.

95% of parents said they would recommend the course to another parent.

11 out of the 14 tutors rated the course as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, but could be longer.

85% of parents rated the course as being either ‘amazingly helpful’ or ‘very helpful’ in teaching them how to manage their money more effectively.

Family learning tutors and other trusted intermediaries working with EAL families in the UK are now equipped to use mainstream government funding to provide effective and evidence-based family financial capability programmes for families in their local community. This means that:

  • parents can access preventative financial capability training and support in managing family finances
  • parents will become positive role models for their children in developing financial capability
  • children living poverty will be able to learn positive money habits at home
  • families with EAL are able to improve their financial wellbeing and resilience.


Areas of the programme that worked well included the quality of the materials and resources, which meant tutors found the ideas easy to teach and learners were highly engaged. The most useful subjects on the course according to parents were learning to budget or manage their money better, plan more effectively and spend their money more wisely. Classes were more effective when children could join their parents, although some schools were reluctant to release children, who were at KS2. The programme was particularly effective when classes had additional support from a second practitioner for learners with less developed language skills.

“Having hit the project’s targets, we’re determined to build on the work.”

Juliette Collier, Campaign for Learning

Interested in learning more

or supporting this project?

Contact: Juliette Collier at Campaign for Learning

T: 0773 969 2102

E: jcollier@cflearning.org.uk


Campaign for Learning: campaign-for-learning.org.uk

Smartlyte: smartlyte.co.uk

What Works Fund, managed by the Money Advice Service

Financial Capability Strategy for the UK: fincap.org.uk

Money Advice Service: moneyadviceservice.org.uk

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