100% Digital Leeds is working with Leeds City Council’s Employment and Skills team and third sector partners to support communities hit hardest by the cost of living crisis. ‘Multiply’ is a government-funded scheme to improve adult functional numeracy skills. To date, 15 third sector deliver partners have received funding to support over 420 learners to improve their financial resilience. In addition, each learner has been gifted a digital device with connectivity and supported to develop the digital skills and confidence they need to make best use of digital and the internet to manage their money.

Supporting digital inclusion and financial resilience for those hit hardest by the cost of living crisis

Multiply is an adult maths support programme, which is part of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund’s Levelling Up programme. The Multiply programme aims to boosts people’s ability to use maths in their daily life, both at home and work. The Leeds City Council scheme is managed by the Employment and Skills team.

100% Digital Leeds has worked with Employment and Skills to award grants to trusted third sector delivery partners working with communities who are most likely to be digitally excluded, feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis, and facing barriers to accessing learning in a more formal or traditional setting. Those supported include people on low incomes, people with learning disabilities, people with mental health needs, refugees and asylum seekers, and older people.

100% Digital Leeds Multiply delivery partners:

The delivery partners have used the funding to create courses with content tailored to meet the specific needs of the communities they work with and within, aimed at those hit hardest by the cost of living crisis. Course content covers numeracy skills for improved financial resilience, such as household budgeting, price comparisons, online selling, and self-employment. Each organisation has also used their funding to purchase and gift each learner a new digital device such as a smart phone, tablet, or smart speaker, along with two years of connectivity. Learners are supported to develop the digital skills and confidence they need to make best use of their new digital device to save and manage their money.

Case study: Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours Scheme is a charity in Cross Gates that works with older people to reduce loneliness and isolation, and to support independence. The organisation also manages Cross Gates and Whinmoor Community Hub, based at Cross Gates Shopping Centre. The Hub provides support, advice, and information for people of any age in the local community.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours designed their Multiply course to meet the needs of the local community. They identified learners through their Community Hub, a service the local community reach out to for one-to-one support when they’re struggling with money or are in a crisis situation.

“People often come into the Community Hub in a state of crisis, and we do our best to help them. We’ve got our food bank at the Community Hub and now we’re offering cost of living support sessions. Instead of just giving people a bag of food every week, we can support them to think about how they can save money by budgeting better.”

Jo Horsfall, CEO at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours designed the course to help people develop the skills they need to better manage their finances going forward. The course content includes:

  • Household budgeting.
  • Price comparisons and switching suppliers.
  • Affordable meal planning.
  • Maximising benefits.
  • Debt management.
  • ‘Needs’ versus ‘wants’.

Of the 28 learners supported in their first round of Multiply, 13 said they came away from the session having already saved money. Many more left with the skills and understanding needed to make changes that would help them save money going forward.

“In the older people’s arm of the organisation we’re doing a lot more referrals for Attendance Allowance and Pension Credits. We know that people aren’t claiming all the benefits they’re entitled to and are struggling as a result. One person we’ve helped was really struggling financially and didn’t realise he was entitled to Attendance Allowance. He’s now £600 a month better off.”

Jo Horsfall, CEO at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

“People were worried about things like changing their insurance. They were saying, ‘But this company’s been good, I don’t want to switch’ even though it’s gone up £300 pound every year. They didn’t realise how much money they could save until we showed them how to do price comparisons.”

Jo Horsfall, CEO at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours recognise that whilst some learners may want to share their personal experiences, others may not want to talk about their situation. So they used their knowledge of the local community to develop sessions discussing hypothetical situations likely to resonate with learners.

“We developed budgeting scenarios to get people thinking about the kind of things they spent the money on and looked at different ways money could be saved in each of the different situations. If people wanted to share their own situation they could, but if they didn’t, they could just talk about the worksheets.

Some of the scenarios were simple things that we take for granted. We talked about buying a sofa on credit and people didn’t realise that interest makes it more expensive than paying up front. Now people are saying if they need something like that, they’re going to save up for it, because they don’t want to be spending more money than they have to.”

Jo Horsfall, CEO at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours recognise that many of their service users lack confidence in their maths skills, do not have formal qualifications, and may not have had a positive experience of formal education. As a result, they are more likely to be apprehensive about attending a course focussed on maths. Because they have an existing trusted relationship with their service users Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours can take an active role in supporting and encouraging people to attend learning.

“Some people were nervous, like they were going into an exam. We had to give a lot of encouragement and support to come along, reassuring them it wasn’t a test, and we were all going to be working together. We rang people the day before to remind them it was going to be fine, and they should come down.

Some were really anxious. One lady said she’d been up all night worrying that she wasn’t going to be able to do it and she’d let people down. People were worried they were going to be stepping into a classroom after a long time out of education, so holding the sessions at the Community Hub, a space that that they had been to before for support, made a lot of difference.”

Jo Horsfall, CEO at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

“Some of the older people don’t have any formal qualifications and a lot of them have never had to manage money. Some of the ladies that came, their husbands had always done it and they’ve literally just been given some money for housekeeping. Then the husband had died and they’re left in situations where they didn’t really understand money management, so if they don’t have a family member who can help, they really struggle.”

Jo Horsfall, CEO at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

Those struggling with the cost of living are also those most likely to be digitally excluded as they find the cost of a digital device and connectivity prohibitive. Lack of access to equipment has stopped many people from engaging with digital, and being able to gift devices to those who have not been able to afford them has meant Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours have seen increased demand for digital skills support from those who have taken part in Multiply.

“I think the tablet and the data was a really good incentive and I think some of our learners probably wouldn’t have come without that. We’ve targeted people who didn’t have a device or couldn’t afford the internet. It’s led to more requests for one-to-one digital support because people have got the equipment and have started to understand some of the benefits of being online. So it’s more work for us, but the people are benefitting and that’s what we’re here for.”

Jo Horsfall, CEO at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

Receiving funding to deliver Multiply has helped Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours better understand how to support people struggling with the cost of living going forward. They’ve since received different funding to do more cost of living workshops which have been well attended by people of all ages from the local community. The sessions help people to manage their day-to-day living costs and lower their bills. Attendees look at their spending, are advised on where they could save, and then they each complete a personalised action plan to manage their money better.

“Multiply has been a first step to supporting us to really be able to help people struggling with the cost of living crisis. It gave us the capacity to spend more time with people to really understand their situations and help them with the root cause. The funding has made a big impact because when somebody comes in with a problem you’ve only got so much time to help them, then there’s somebody sat waiting. These sessions allowed us to give people a block of time in a relaxed environment.”

Jo Horsfall, CEO at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours learner case study: Hilary

Hilary is 72 years old and has struggled with budgeting all her life. She had lost a lot of her confidence and was worrying about making decisions to save and manage money, especially since all of her children had now moved out. Hilary was used to having her family to support her financially and to take control of ensuring everything was paid, but her 30-year-old daughter has just left home.

The budgeting skills and personal plan really helped Hilary put things in perspective and made her feel like she could cope by recording and keeping a track on her income and her outgoings. She even realised that she could save money on her broadband, something that is very important to her as it is a good way for her to communicate with her family, now that they don’t live at home.

By taking part in Multiply Hilary and another lady that attended the course have found out you can buy a monthly cinema ticket for just £15. They are now going to the cinema together a couple of times a week because they like watching films, being in company, and it’s also warm so they’ve saved money on their heating bills.

‘’I’ve always loved the cinema but couldn’t always afford it, this is perfect, and I have some company too’’.

Hilary, Multiply learner at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours learner case study: Chloe

Chloe is a 20-year-old single mum who is struggling on a low income. She does want to get back into employment or further education but has a 7-month-old baby. She doesn’t drive and childcare cost are high. Chloe recently moved to a house that is out of the area as she was unable to find anywhere close to family and friends. She is more isolated as a result. This is the first time that Chloe has lived on her own, so she is learning how to budget and pay bills. Chloe found the budgeting scenarios of the Multiply course especially useful as she was unaware that if you bought something and paid weekly it would cost you more.

The tablet with data that Chloe received by attending the Multiply course has meant that she can better connect with the outside world. She is currently searching for part-time work or further education or training courses that she can fit in around the baby and care needs.

Chloe gained a lot from the Multiply course and will put all the budgeting tips and skills to use. She is going to try save a little each week for anything that she may need for the baby, herself, or her first home.

“It was good to have a day off from been a mum. I enjoyed it and feel more confident that I can deal with managing and working out money now. I can now do percentages, which is something I struggled with at school.”

Chloe, Multiply Learner at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours.