Ini­tia­tive set to ex­pand its in­te­gral role in help­in­gout com­mu­ni­ties

Evening Telegraph (Late Extra Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - BY LIND­SEY HAMIL­TON

AN award-win­ning project aimed at pro­vid­ing ad­vice on wel­fare and fi­nan­cial is­sues is set to be ex­tended in Dundee.

Dundee City Coun­cil scooped the Chair­man’s Award at the 2017 Cosla Ex­cel­lence Awards last week for a scheme that sees wel­fare rights ad­vis­ers based in five city GP surg­eries.

The ad­vis­ers have be­come an in­te­gral part of ser­vices pro­vided to pa­tients, ad­dress­ing so­cio-eco­nomic con­cerns and al­low­ing GPs and other health pro­fes­sion­als to con­cen­trate more on clin­i­cal needs.

The scheme has proven so suc­cess­ful that there are plans al­ready in place to take the ser­vice to fur­ther GP prac­tices in Dundee.

While the ac­tual lo­ca­tions are still not be­ing dis­closed, Craig Ma­son, se­nior man­ager for the coun­cil’s ad­vice ser­vices, said they would be in place no later than March — per­haps sooner.

Mr Ma­son said the coun­cil was anx­ious to ex­tend the project fur­ther fol­low­ing its suc­cess.

The idea, he ex­plained, was for wel­fare rights of­fi­cers to be on hand in surg­eries once a week to an­swer pa­tients’ con­cerns on wel­fare and fi­nan­cial is­sues.

He said the scheme, which launched in 2015, al­lows the of­fi­cers — with the con­sent of clients — im­me­di­ate ac­cess to pa­tients’ med­i­cal records, speed­ing up ben­e­fits claims and ap­peals.

He added: “Wel­fare rights teams can as­sist those with health con­di­tions to claim the ben­e­fits to which they are en­ti­tled. This can then lead to bet­ter in­comes, bet­ter di­ets, bet­ter so­cial in­clu­sion and bet­ter health and well­be­ing gen­er­ally.

“The ad­vis­ers have be­come an in­te­gral part of the ser­vices pro­vided to pa­tients in their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, ad­dress­ing so­cio-eco­nomic con­cerns and al­low­ing GPs and other health pro­fes­sion­als to con­cen­trate more on clin­i­cal needs.

“By link­ing in early with peo­ple when ill­ness or dis­abil­ity strikes, the ad­vis­ers have suc­cess­fully used ac­cess to med­i­cal records to se­cure more than £2.1 mil­lion in ex­tra in­come since Jan­uary 2015.”

Mr Ma­son said the money ul­ti­mately stayed in the lo­cal econ­omy.

A re­port ear­lier this year es­ti­mated that every £1 in­vested in this ser­vice gen­er­ates about £39 in so­cial and eco­nomic ben­e­fits to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr Ma­son said that as uni­ver­sal credit — a new sys­tem that rolls six ex­ist­ing ben­e­fits into a sin­gle monthly pay­ment — draws closer, the ser­vice could prove to be even

Wel­fare rights ad­viser Fay Costello and the team with their award.

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