Background Glasgow, like other UK cities, faces the challenge of addressing high child poverty levels - 52% of children, in some parts of the city, live in poverty. Within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Healthier, Wealthier Children (HWC) project was set up to create referral pathways between the NHS and money advice services to support pregnant women and families at risk of child poverty. The 15 month project, launched in October 2010, was funded by the Scottish Government.
The evaluation, being undertaken by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, will conclude in April 2012. This paper aims to describe the HWC evaluation findings with a focus on two key objectives: development of the NHS workforce role and mainstreaming child poverty action within this role.
Methods A mixed methods approach to the HWC evaluation included capturing and describing the changes in the NHS workforce roles through documentary analysis, an NHS workforce survey and outcomes from money advice services.
Results An HWC website was set up to provide staff materials, case studies and practical recommendations on child poverty work as an NHS workforce resource. Other ongoing work includes creating midwife/patient web-based scenarios to be used as a national resource.
Although not part of the existing NHS performance framework (i.e. HEAT targets), there is evidence that HWC work is being embedded. Most referrals to advice services were made by health visitors (51%) and midwives (29%). The majority of both workforces (81/84; 96%) intend to continue referring post-HWC. Moreover, health visitors ranked clients’ money worries as a priority above three national HEAT targets.
To date, 2,516 referrals were made to money advice services which resulted in uptake of 54% (n=1,347) among pregnant women and families with young children. More than seven out of 10 people accessing advice services were eligible for Healthy Start vouchers (benefits related) which can be exchanged for milk, fresh fruit and vegetables. There was a total recorded annual gain of just over £2.7 million and £328,000 in one-off lump sums. Other reported client outcomes included immigration advice, addressing fuel poverty and onward homelessness referrals.
Conclusion This paper will suggest that HWC has resulted in positive outcomes towards mitigating the impact of child poverty. Midwives and health visitors have played an active role and there is scope to develop this work across the wider Early Years workforces.
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