GP practices in some of the most deprived communities will receive £3.17 million to fund dedicated welfare rights advisors to address growing mental health concerns caused by money and housing insecurity. This work will be delivered and evaluated by the Improvement Service in collaboration with the Scottish Public Health Network.
Launching in September 2021, 150 GP Practices will be able to refer patients directly to an in-house welfare rights officer for advice on increasing income, social security eligibility, debt resolution, housing, and employability issues as well as helping with representation at tribunals.
It is hoped that local authorities in areas with GP practices serving individuals experiencing the greatest social and economic deprivation will play a key role in helping to distribute funding.
The Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships will reduce pressure on GPs and primary care services - allowing them to focus on clinical care and treatment for patients while a dedicated advisor supports them to address their social and economic needs.
Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic GP practices have reported an increase in the number of patients citing money and housing worries for mental health issues. This funding will enable Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships to be formed as part of COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience plans.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone differently and further highlighted how vital it is to ensure support is in place for those who need it, including access to advice to help people overcome issues which are having a negative impact their mental health.
“Evidence has shown that money and welfare advisors in health centres reach people who do not engage with traditional advice services. This is the first time this approach will be delivered at a national scale, and I am sure it will make a difference to households as we focus on our recovery from this crisis.”
COSLA President and Chair of the Improvement Service Board Councillor Alison Evison said:
“For the last four years we have worked with Public Health Scotland (previously NHS Scotland) and the Scottish Public Health Network to support the development of Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships and witnessed how this can reduce health, social and economic inequalities.
“This funding from the Scottish Government will enable us to extend these Partnerships in Scotland’s most deprived communities, driving improvements and delivering help on a much larger scale.”
This approach has also been supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association and Deep End GPs. The Deep End group is a network of GP Practices in Scotland which cover the 100 most deprived patient populations.