Abstract: Intervention for Social Work Clients Facing Complex Financial Problems in Finland: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Intervention for Social Work Clients Facing Complex Financial Problems in Finland: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial

Friday, January 13, 2023
Desert Sky, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Anniina Kaittila, Senior Researcher, University of Turku, Finland, Finland
Katri Viitasalo, University Lecturer, University of Helsinki, Finland, Finland
Henna Isoniemi, Senior Researcher, University of Turku, Finland
Meri Moisio, Senior Researcher, University of Turku, Finland, Finland
Sanni Välimäki, Senior Researcher, University of Turku, Finland, Finland
Mia Hakovirta, PhD, Academic Researcher, University of Turku, Finland
Background and Objective: Social work clients often face complex financial problems. Although social workers can address clients’ financial problems through a variety of practice strategies, little is known of the effectiveness on these strategies in responses clients’ financial difficulties. We develop a financial social work intervention to increase financial literacy and reduce financial anxiety among parents in Finland, and aim to study the effectiveness of the model. In this protocol, we describe the development of a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the financial social work intervention, and assess its feasibility.

Methods: The methodology used to develop the intervention model is based on protocol of service design. It involved a comprehensive literature review, consultations and interviews with stakeholders and clients, and workshops with practitioners. A review from electronic databases on interventions intended to improve financial capability among families included 54 studies. We interviewed ten stakeholders with specified questions about clients’ financial needs and the content of the financial social work intervention. Based on the feedback of stakeholders and literature review, a prototype of intervention was developed. We organized three workshops to present the intervention protocol for clinical social workers and practitioners, and further re-evaluated and revised the prototype according to their feedback. In addition, feedback of two social work clients was taken into account with the final version of the intervention protocol.

Results: We report preliminary results of the design and content of the RCT intervention. We will recruit 70 families with financial difficulties between January 2022 and January 2023 from two social and health care district in Finland, and randomly assign them into the treatment group (n =35) and the control group (n =35). Treatment families will meet social worker together with a project researcher (every two weeks, 1-1.5 hours) during the program (2 to 4 months), and receive psychosocial support for financial issues. The intervention has four components: the personal finances, eco-social perspective to finances, family budget and feelings, and thoughts concerning finances. Fidelity of the intervention is supported by organizing training, providing ongoing guidance and manuals for social workers. Data is collected at three measurement points: prior the intervention, the second measurement after the intervention, and the follow-up measurement three months after the intervention.Major outcome variables are standardized Financial Anxiety Scale (FAS), Scale of Economic Self-Efficiency, and Financial Literacy Scale.

Conclusion and Implications: This study designs, develops, and implements a pilot RCT which focuses on feasibility of family financial social work intervention. It explores whether the intervention works in a social work context and should it be developed further, and if so, how to expand the model. Our experiences on developing RCT design study indicate that feasibility study in financial social work requires skills and knowledge in financial social work, promotion of financial capability, and good contacts with the clinical social workers and social work organizations. Furthermore, social workers increasingly need tools and evidence-based practices to be able to enhance financial well-being of their clients facing complex financial problems.