Case Study

Evaluating the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) Affordable Credit Pilot

Client: Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) | Sectors: Social Policy

The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) is a registered housing association and care provider, managing over 2500 properties. It is part of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), a charity committed to addressing poverty and inspiring social change. The JRHT set up an affordable credit scheme to support tenants who may have difficulty accessing affordable credit and may therefore be reliant on high interest loans. 

We were commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the JRHT scheme, alongside Bristol University’s Personal Finance Research Centre and Cobweb Consulting. The study looked at how the scheme was managed and the outcomes for both residents and the JRHT, with a view to recommending whether or not the scheme should be continued and in what format. 

The study consisted of workshops and interviews to explore the views of staff and residents and a review of existing loan scheme data. The evaluation took place alongside a related research study for Housing Association Innovation regarding the provision of affordable credit, carried out by Ecorys and partners, which provided contextual evidence for the JRHT study. 

The research found that the scheme had a broadly positive impact on residents’ emotional well-being, but there were mixed results in terms of their financial well-being. In addition, the reach of the scheme was too limited to have contributed to JRHT’s ambition to be an anti-poverty landlord. While acknowledging the limitations of the study due to its small scale, the report concluded that the scheme could alleviate poverty in the short term but that it needed to be part of a wider ranging anti-poverty toolkit to have longer term impact. The report recommended a second pilot scheme and provided suggestions for improving its design to address a number of issues uncovered during the evaluation.

• While acknowledging the small scale of the study, the evaluation indicated that the JRHT affordable credit scheme had some positive impacts in terms of residents’ emotional well-being but mixed results in terms of their financial well-being. The limited reach of the pilot scheme meant that it had little impact in terms of JRHT’s ambition to be an anti-poverty landlord

• A Theory of Change (ToC) model was developed as a framework for the evaluation and the research consisted of: 
o Three staff workshops
o Six interviews with loan holders
o Eight interviews with residents who did not have loans, but were part of a cohort of residents initially targeted by JRHT’s marketing of the credit scheme
o Analysis of existing scheme data

• The outputs were:
o A final 57-page report including recommendations for the future roll out/design of the scheme
o Findings from the studies were disseminated at a symposium attended by representatives from across the social housing and related sectors

Key Experts

Kate Smith Senior Research Manager