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The Community Financial Inclusion Project

Christians Against Poverty
Date: 2010


Earlier research by Thrive, an initiative of Church Action on Poverty working in the borough of Stockton-on-Tees, carrying out action research and developing solutions to poverty and exclusion, indicated that financial exclusion and debt posed serious challenges for a segment of the population living in deprived neighbourhoods. Despite the presence of advice and support agencies in the area (e.g. Citizens Advice, credit unions, etc.), these households were not being reached. Research also suggested limitations and gaps in the current provision. Therefore, this research aimed to establish whether these issues could be addressed through a targeted programme.

Key research Question

To explore how and to what extent Thrive’s Community Financial Inclusion Project had met its intended objectives of providing practical solutions to those experiencing debt and financial difficulties in Stockton-on-Tees and creating better coordination between agencies.

Summary of activity

Thrive utilised a popular anti-poverty training model, Sustainable Livelihoods (SL), which upskills trainees to understand the different forms and characteristics of poverty and use an asset-based tool to mentor individuals in a holistic way to identify barriers and solutions. In this project, 15 local people were trained to mentor 50 households in the Stockton-on-Tees area over a 12-month period.

The project generated qualitative data and some quantitative data using an action research approach. Data were collected via interviews with households using two main tools: the Livelihoods Baseline Assessment and the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. Some quantitative data were gathered on households’ profiles and financial assets. The initial assessments would inform the subsequent practical steps that were implemented. The project recruited a researcher to develop qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure households’ progress.


  • The SL approach was found to be highly effective in identifying where households needed support and offering solutions. For example, a lack of information on cheaper and/or social tariffs, alternative energy suppliers and energy efficiency measures was apparent. Advice on various options, alongside financial capability classes, was found to be particularly beneficial in developing more positive financial behaviours.
  • As a result, 31% of households acknowledged real change, although for some it was too early to identify the impact.
  • The use of locally based mentors was very effective in establishing trusted relationships and maintaining contact, but the commitment required was significant, causing notable attrition among trainees.
  • The study confirmed the findings of earlier research, namely, that debts played a major role in financial exclusion. Some of these were partly outside households’ control, e.g. energy price rises. Most of those who disclosed their payment method were on prepayment key/card options, and 10% were in fuel debt.


  • To continue monitoring the households in order to assess longer-term changes.
  • To explore the wider rollout of such programmes and the funding commitments needed to continue Thrive.
  • To investigate if the model can be used in other areas, such as health.

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