Vulnerable people need help earlier to make NHS savings

Clare Jerrom
Doctor_article_detail
18 Dec 2012

Health savings could be achieved by ensuring vulnerable people are able to access early advice to resolve their social problems, according to research by Youth Access.

The youth advice and counselling charity believes that the combination of welfare reforms and rising homelessness could over-burden NHS budgets unless huge cuts to voluntary sector advice services are reversed.

A young person with a social welfare problem relating to housing or money has typically already cost local health services, housing services and social services around £13,000 before finding their way to an advice service.

This could be avoided by ensuring earlier access to advice, the charity warns. Advice intervention in a youth advice setting costs under £100, after which seventy per cent of young people report improvements in their mental and/or physical health.

A study found particularly strong links between young people’s social welfare problems and mental ill-health. Around two-thirds of young people presenting at youth advice agencies for help with housing, benefit and employment problems had scores on a standardised mental health scale that met or exceeded common cut-off points for cases of mental illness.

Forty-five per cent had experienced problems with their mental or physical health as a direct result of their social welfare problems, with many making avoidable visits to their GP.

Barbara Rayment, Director of Youth Access, says:Failing to address rising social welfare problems could cripple NHS and social care budgets. The research indicates that youth advice services are ‘clearly cost-effective’, even when viewed only in terms of their impact on mental health.”

Youth Access has charted a relentless rise in mental health and social welfare needs amongst young people over recent years, coinciding with a dramatic fall in the level of funding available to youth advice and counselling services. The forthcoming implementation of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms are predicted to lead to a further surge in demand.

Youth Access is calling for investment in advice service models that are proven to be effective for young people.

 Download the full report or briefing version

 

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