Last updated:2023-09-18
Lawyers and medics call for social welfare law ‘prescription’
Legal advice should be included as part of a package of ‘social prescribing’, to solve people’s problems, according to delegates at a health and social welfare law conference, where there was strong support for the idea.
The Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, Norman Lamb MP, said: ‘Access to advice and support gives people power to resolve their problems.’ Lamb added that the ‘big change’ has to be for the NHS to focus on prevention and to acknowledge the ‘social determinants of health problems’.
The theme of persuading health service commissions of the value of funding social welfare law advice came up repeatedly at the conference, attended by senior figures in the health and legal sectors. Andy Buck, chief executive at Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre and a former NHS executive, said: ‘Advice is not out of scope for NHS commissioners.’ Dr Dan Roper, a GP and a member of the Hull and East Riding Clinical Commissioning Group, described the provision of social welfare law advice in GP surgeries as one of the ‘most effective interventions we do’, as there are few treatments where ’90 per of people say it did them good’. A psychiatrist, Professor Rob Poole, told the conference that the NHS is ‘spending a lot of money on things that don’t work’ for example high dose opiates, but with welfare advice we ‘have something here that does work’.
Marlene Winfield, from the Legal Services Consumer Panel agreed. She told the conference: ‘We have got to show that social welfare law advice is a legitimate part of integrated health care.’
The conference was organised by the Low Commission, which LAG founded, along with the Advice Services Alliance and the charity Youth Access. LAG and the Low Commission are currently discussing with advice and other organisations the best strategy to continue this advice and health policy work.
See page 8.