New research from the Improvement Service shows the impact of COVID-19 on local authority-funded money and welfare rights advice services.
Scottish local authorities are one of the main funders of money and welfare rights advice services in Scotland investing around £26 million in 2018-19. The social distancing measures required as a result of COVID-19 have had a major impact on the way services are provided. To identify in detail what this has meant for both the providers and users of money and welfare rights advice services the Improvement Service’s Evaluation and Research teams surveyed all 32 Scottish local authorities.
The results confirmed that local authority funded money and welfare advice services have responded quickly and creatively to meeting service user needs. By working collaboratively, they have sought to ensure that a co-ordinated approach involving all community assets is taken, targeting resources at those who are most vulnerable.
The nature of individuals seeking to access advice services, and the type of advice sought, have changed markedly as a result of COVID-19. There has been a marked increase in demand from individuals who were in employment, particularly if they were self-employed, and a reduction in requests for debt advice.
The ways people access advice services have also altered, although not always as a result of personal choice. In the future many of the digital routes currently on offer will continue, and indeed be enhanced.
To cope with the predicted increase in demand, being able to access good quality advice services through a range of venues and channels will be critical. However, to ensure that money and welfare rights services are sustained will require an acceptance and understanding that they need to form a key component in measures designed to support economic recovery and reduce poverty.
The report also makes a number of recommendations for funders and providers of advice services.
Download the full report: Impact of COVID-19 on local authority funded money and welfare rights advice services