Ageing and Society

Research Article

Can welfare-rights advice targeted at older people reduce social exclusion?

SUZANNE MOFFATTa1 c1 and GRAHAM SCAMBLERa2

a1 Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK.

a2 Unit of Medical Sociology, University College London, UK.

ABSTRACT

It is known that, in general, people of pensionable age have gained in income compared to other age groups in the British population over the last two decades, but that a substantial minority still experience relative poverty. This paper reports a small qualitative study into the effectiveness of a welfare-rights advice and acquisition service for men and women aged 60 or more years that was provided through a local primary health-care service. Additional financial and non-financial resources were obtained by accessing previously unclaimed state-welfare benefits. It was found that these significantly improved the participants' quality of life. Fourteen of the 25 participants received some type of financial award as a result of the service offered, with the median income gain being £57 (€84 or US $101) per week. The impact of additional resources was considerable and included: increased affordability of necessities and occasional expenses; increased capacity to cope with emergencies; and reduced stress related to financial worries. Knowledge of and access to welfare-rights services also appeared to have a positive effect. It is argued that a level of material resources above a basic level is necessary for social relations and for accessing services and civic activities, and can reduce social exclusion among older people.

(Accepted December 17 2007)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Suzanne Moffatt, Public Health Research Programme, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK. E-mail: s.m.moffatt@ncl.ac.uk