More people to have access to personalised financial advice
At least 15,000 households each year are expected to benefit from the new Financial Health Check service, which is available from today - backed by £3.3 million in funding over the next two years.
Low income families and older people will be able to access personalised advice on money matters, from reducing household energy costs to accessing grants such as the Best Start Grant and the School Clothing Grant. This will help people avoid the "poverty premium" of paying more for essential goods and services.
This new service, which is one of the commitments outlined in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, will be available through a freephone telephone number “0800 085 7145“ or in person at Citizens Advice Bureaux across the country.
Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said:
"I am delighted that from today our new Financial Health Check service is now open for business. This is a key part of our work to tackle child poverty and we want to make sure that families on low incomes have the support they need to make the most of their financial situation to avoid paying the higher costs for basic goods and services that low income families can often face. It is this poverty premium we want to tackle as well as ensuring that households are maximising their incomes
"The health check will cover issues such as access to free school meals, benefit uptake, council tax reduction and cheaper deals on energy and other utilities to reduce household costs. I am delighted that from today, those families, and older people, will be able to get the personalised advice they need to save money and to receive all the support that is available. Importantly people will be able to access this new service in the best and most convenient way for them through the Citizens Advice Bureaux right across the country."
Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Derek Mitchell added:
"Research has shown that around half a million Scots are not claiming all the support they are entitled to. That means families are struggling to heat their homes or put food on the table while missing out on financial assistance that could make a crucial difference. This service is all about identifying those people and linking them up with the grants, benefits or support that they need.
"The CAB service already does work every day to help people who are struggling, but it is an ongoing battle to make sure we are reaching all the people who need this support, so the funding we have received for this new service is extremely welcome and will allow us to offer this crucial help to thousands more people who could benefit from it."
Satwat Rehman, Director of One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS), said:
"OPFS is very pleased to see this additional funding for a service which will be so important over the coming period, especially to those affected by welfare cuts and continuing austerity.
"We are committed to working in partnership with CAS to complement their work through our tailored single parent advice and information service delivered by our expertly trained staff."
John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said:
"We know from our work that too many hard up families miss out the financial support they are entitled to, undermining wider action to end child poverty.
"The new Financial Health Check is an important and very welcome step toward ensuring all parents get the advice they need to maximise their incomes and reduce the costs they face."
This year's Programme for Government included the commitment to begin the roll-out of this service before the end of 2018. The funding is available for two years.
Action 48 of the Fairer Scotland Action Plan committed to developing a "Financial Health Check service with an older people strand: the health check will offer a personalised service to maximise incomes for older people in retirement; this will help those already in receipt of the State Pension." To meet this commitment, and to test a Financial Health Check model ahead of a separate PfG commitment to deliver such checks to low income families in 2018, we commissioned Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) to run a pilot Financial Health Check service for older people throughout November 2017.
The Financial Health Check service is free and will be delivered over the phone or face to face.