We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement today to fund dedicated welfare advice services in 150 GP practices across Scotland. Public Health Scotland (PHS), the Scottish Public Health Network (ScotPHN), on behalf of the Scottish Directors of Public Health, and the Improvement Service are collaborating to develop and deliver these Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships launching in September 2021.
The Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships funding will help address the health impacts of money and housing insecurity in some of Scotland’s poorest areas.
The partnerships bring together rights and money advice services in GP settings and will support local people to maximise their income. An in-house welfare rights officer means advice can be offered to ensure people, who may not engage with traditional support services, are receiving the benefits they are entitled to, can access debt resolution, get help with housing and employability issues, and access support and representation at tribunals.
Kerry McKenzie, Child Poverty Lead, Public Health Scotland said:
"Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Scotland experienced a prolonged period of rising health inequalities. The pandemic and associated control measures have exacerbated these, especially for people in poorer areas and children and families. Reducing poverty is a public health priority and the economic challenges that have followed in the wake of COVID-19 bring the realities of poverty into an even sharper focus.
"Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships are one of the many ways the whole system can work together to tackle health inequalities and reduce poverty. PHS is committed to doing this. We will contribute to the work of partners across the public health landscape and will support the overall evaluation of the Welfare Advice and Health Partnership programme."
Kate Burton, Public Health Practitioner, ScotPHN said:
"We know that those in Scotland who are most affected by the consequences of social and economic inequalities have poorer health and are also more likely to be affected by the virus. Investment in this approach, where GPs and other practice staff ask patients about money worries in the course of appointments and referring them to money and welfare advisers hosted within the practice, supports the most disadvantaged while allowing staff to focus their time on clinical issues.
"As we recover from the pandemic, initiatives such as these partnerships between general practice and the advice sector, are meaningful public health responses to both the existing scale of health inequalities that we face and to helping prevent new ones as a result of COVID-19 protective measures."