NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, together with local authorities, voluntary sector organisations and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, have been working to help reduce child poverty by helping thousands of local residents access more than £4.5 million in missed income.
A new report of the Healthier, Wealthier Children (HWC) project published today (Wednesday 16 October) details the innovative work by these organisations to help reduce child poverty.
Over the last three years NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has, with support from the Scottish Government, been piloting an innovative new scheme by contracting a team of money advice workers - Income Maximisers. Working closely with NHS staff, and others, this team have been providing advice and help to families on how to get the most out of their income with the aim of improving long-term health.
With deprivation being one key factor linked to poor health outcomes the project is aimed at tackling child poverty by ensuring that pregnant women and families have an adequate income.
Dr Linda de Caestecker, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Director of Public Health, said: “More than 200,000 children in Scotland live in poverty – that’s nearly one in four children. Poverty affects future life chances, with children in low income households more likely to have poorer health, lower qualifications and reduced life expectancy. We want to help improve our children’s health and part of that is to help families out of poverty.”
The Income Maximiser service has so far received 5003 referrals. Families are provided with a range of advice such as getting the most out of a household income, helping them register for benefits and help to apply for one-off grants or loans.
The HWC project has been able to help with financial gain which involves working with families to advise on reducing debt payments or helping to change service tariffs - for example, household gas or electricity payments. Since the project started Income Maximisers have successfully helped families access just more than £4.5 million in finance that they were previously unaware of.
The GCPH report authors note that by 2020 UK child poverty rates are predicted to rise to 24 per cent by 2020, resulting in an additional 50,000 children in Scotland living in poverty. They recommend wider adoption of the HWC partnership model across Scotland and the need to consider a new fund to promote financial security and tackle poverty.
One first-time parent who has benefited from having their income maximised said: "I have found the service really beneficial and was shocked at how much I was actually entitled to."
Mel Ford is an Income Advisor and has worked with the project since the start. Mel said: “It’s been so interesting to work in partnership with the NHS. I’ve had referrals from a client group that I normally would not see. As our referrals come mostly from health visitors we devised a card with some key questions which staff can use to start a conversation about benefits and income.
“Once we receive a referral from the staff member we will telephone the client and find out what help we can offer. This can be a benefit or tax credit check over the ‘phone or we can arrange an office appointment or a home visit.
“I must say, no two days are ever the same but it’s fantastically rewarding to be able to help people as much as possible.”
Judith Paterson of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland commented: “We have been working in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde among others to try and tackle child poverty. Poverty remains one of the most serious problems facing children today and we welcome this progressive approach to making a real difference to people’s everyday lives.”
Following the success of this pilot and with UK child poverty rates predicted to rise to 24 per cent by 2020, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has decided to mainstream this service in the future. Staff from Early Years, health improvement and money advice will continue to work in partnership to address child poverty, including dealing with the current referrals, which are averaging approximately 200 a month.
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Notes to editors
The new report (Healthier, Wealthier Children: learning from an early intervention child poverty project)
produced by Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) is available at:
The report authors are Lynn Naven and James Egan.