Background Citizens advice can help clients avoid the worst consequences of poverty and hence has the potential to reduce inequalities in health. Previous studies of providing citizens advice from primary care have concentrated largely on older clients.
Aim To measure the benefits obtained by families with young children from a citizens advice service in primary care.
Method An advice worker was placed in three practices. Eligible families had a child less than 1 year of age. Quantitative analysis of data on benefits obtained by all families using the service was performed. Qualitative analysis of interviews with five users and five non-users of the service was undertaken.
Results Out of 107 families recruited, 23 used the CAB service, seeking advice on 49 different problems and obtaining benefit on 32 of these, most frequently on welfare benefits, debt management and housing. One-off financial benefits totalled £17 857 with annual recurring payments of £6480. The interviews raised five general themes: (1) the stresses surrounding the birth of a child; (2) factors associated with uptake of the service; (3) the content and value of the advice received; (4) the benefits to their health of the advice; and (5) their perception of the links between health and financial adversity.
Condusions Citizens advice offers considerable benefits to families with young children. It may have positive effects on maternal and child health. An advice service is a useful component of primary health care for young families.