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DOSH stops money struggles for social housing tenants

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Key points:

  • Resident property group A2Dominion’s DOSH financial capability programme has been shown to increase residents’ confidence in managing finances and boost their emotional and mental wellbeing.
  • DOSH combines one-on-one therapeutic mentoring, which borrows from healthcare practices, with a bespoke smartphone app.
  • The study by Brunel University London shows that therapeutic mentoring plays a key role in improving financial capability, especially for those with complex circumstances.
  • The app is useful in supporting more intensive programmes, especially when targeted at those with lower levels of complex problems or higher levels of IT literacy.

Financially squeezed social housing tenants have been taking back control of their money thanks to an innovative mentoring programme which borrows from healthcare practices and is supported by a bespoke financial capability app.

Run by resident property group A2Dominion, the DOSH programme – standing for Debts, Overdrafts and Savings Help – brings together one-to-one personalised support with its Ask David smartphone app, aimed at addressing issues of wellbeing, resilience and money management skills.

"Social housing tenants are more susceptible to lower levels of financial capability, and are more likely to be in no or precarious forms of employment," said Dr Emma Wainwright, leader of a team of Brunel University London researchers who worked with A2Dominion to evaluate DOSH. "They want to improve their financial situation and get back on track with their everyday lives, but often lack confidence or knowledge of where to start."

That's where DOSH comes in. The main part of the support is close therapeutic mentoring, which combines practical advice with a focus on improving wellbeing, using techniques similar to those used by the NHS, such as brief interventions. The Ask David app, piloted as part of the programme, offers a newsfeed of information and links, together with a direct messaging hotline to a DOSH mentor.

The programme started in the London Borough of Ealing in 2013, and with support of the Money Advice Service's What Works Fund expanded into Oxford and Spelthorne in Surrey, with a mentor working in each of these three areas. During this expansion period, in which Ask David was developed and introduced, 900 residents were referred to DOSH – 32 of which were surveyed by the Brunel team in 2017/18 to assess how effective the programme is, comparing them with a control group of 24.

The research findings, published in a new report, showed a strong, statistically significant improvement in financial capability for residents on the DOSH programme, which was effective at:

  • increasing their ability to keep up with their bills and credit commitments
  • boosting their confidence in budgeting and managing their finances
  • improving their financial knowledge
  • enhancing their self-perception of overall wellbeing.

In addition, most residents were positive about the support, with 68% feeling their DOSH mentor gives them helpful financial advice.

A male resident from Oxford who fell into rent arrears while unable to work, and was referred to the DOSH programme, said: "I'm hundred percent now back to work and I got a big weight off my mind – not knowing full well, oh, you have got to pay this, you have got to pay that. There is no such thing. [The DOSH mentor] helps you. They discuss with you. They are there to help you."

Dr Wainwright said: "Our study found that using targeted, one-to-one therapeutic mentoring plays a key role in the financial capability of A2Dominion residents with acute financial difficulties, and may benefit more vulnerable and hard-to-research residents who experience complex circumstances, leading to challenging everyday lives." 

The app technology, such as Ask David, can supplement more intensive programmes, especially when targeted at those who are more likely to engage with and benefit from it: residents with lower levels of complex problems and higher levels of IT literacy.

Overall, DOSH was demonstrated to be a great use of money: for every £1 spent on the programme, the estimated social value of the outcomes is £35, calculated using the wellbeing valuation from the Housing Associations' Charitable Trust.

Dele Ryder, Partnership and Fundraising Manager at A2Dominion, said: "The programme has made a huge impact on the ability of our residents to manage their finances, improve their wellbeing and take back control of their lives.

"While it's difficult for a single programme to have an impact across all life experiences and financial management issues, the strength and effectiveness of therapeutic mentoring, combined with digital support for those with the right skills, mean that DOSH will continue being central to our support provision."

'Evaluation of the DOSH financial capability programme', by Dr Emma Wainwright, Dr Ellen McHugh, Professor Ken Gilhooly, Dr Laura Hills, Dele Ryder and Christopher Langston, is available from the Financial Capability website.

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821
joe.buchanunn@brunel.ac.uk