Telephone Financial Counselling Service – Evaluation of Service Quality and Outcomes
Consumer Action Law Centre is pleased to publish this evaluation of our telephone financial counselling service, MoneyHelp. Consumer Action regularly evaluates its services, particularly its advice services that support clients take action to ‘self-help’. We want to ensure that the advice we provide assists consumers take action to improve their legal or financial situation.
The purpose of this evaluation was to:
- measure the quality of the financial counselling assistance provided by Consumer Action, specifically where advice or other resources are provided to enable clients to self-help; and
- recommend changes that could improve the effectiveness of the service. We define a quality service as one where clients have used the advice that they have received to improve their situation, or where it is likely that they will use the advice in the future or seek help again. The evaluation was undertaken by a consultant, Carolyn Bond, who surveyed thirty-seven service users and listened to eleven client interviews.
Key findings from the evaluation include:
- Consumer Action’s telephone financial counselling service provides valuable assistance to low-income and disadvantaged people that improves financial outcomes for them and their families.
- Clients who are able to act on their own (who don’t require someone to advocate on their behalf) are appropriately identified and provided with advice that most of them act upon. The information and assistance provided to clients was accurate and applicable to the clients’ circumstances.
- The service appears to be appropriately targeted. All clients surveyed were on low incomes. Most clients were in receipt of a Centrelink income and most had experienced a life event that had an impact on their financial situation. All but one client called because they were unable to pay bills or debts.
- The majority of clients who made contact with the service took action based on the advice provided. For those who took action based on the advice, there was some improvement in their financial situation. Even some of those who didn’t take action reported that the service had helped them.
Clients generally found the advice easy to understand and to follow.
- While a minority of clients said they would have preferred to have a face-to-face financial counselling session, most preferred the telephone or didn’t have a preference. A client’s preference for a face-to-face service didn’t appear to relate to whether that could have resulted in a better outcome. The telephone financial counsellors’ assessment that these clients could be assisted by telephone financial counselling (rather than a referral to a face-to-face service) was generally appropriate.
The evaluation also found that effective client engagement, through a quality interview, is a key determinant as to whether clients take action to improve their situation. The evaluation makes recommendations for the development of a more formal quality improvement process that focuses on interview structure and techniques. Consumer Action will take steps to further embed such a framework into the regular work of the service. To monitor effectiveness, we will also begin following up some clients in a way that improves the service for the client and provides some information to us about service outcomes.Financial-Counselling-Evaluation-Final-210616