Older People’s Advice Service (OPAS), operated by Link Housing Association

What was the issue you were addressing or working on?

To combat poverty and financial exclusion by improving take-up of older people’s benefits with particular emphasis on clients who have health problems, are housebound, or who live in remote areas.

The service aims to ensure that hard to reach older people are given an opportunity to claim the benefits and access the support that they require.  Typically older people do not access benefits and support due to multiple barriers.  The OPAS delivery model aims to overcome these barriers.

The project focused on Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, West Lothian, North Lanarkshire and Glasgow.

What you did?

The project used a tried and tested methodology to ensure efficiency and effectiveness, including data collection and exchange.  Experienced and well-trained Welfare Rights Officers (WRO) and staff with established working relationships with benefit teams were used.  Integration with other relevant agencies was maintained through a contact network and information sharing.  The service was delivered directly to older people through personalised mail shots, a follow up phone call and interventions were through home visits.  A named WRO carries out the intervention and the service makes follow up referrals to other services.  The service also receives referrals from other contacts such as carers, family members or landlords.

What were the outcomes - benefits or otherwise?

A Social Return on Investment has been undertaken which confirmed that for every £1 invested £27.53 was realised in outputs.

The Service has been accredited to Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers.

The phased delivery model which was developed in the early stages ensured that referral in-take could be managed.  The delivery methods were adapted to include follow up telephone calls as older people did not come forward from the mail shot alone.  This gave a more personalised approach with proved very successful.

Significant effort was put into raising the profile of OPAS with multiple organisations and potential partners.  This proved beneficial in assisting to reach vulnerable older people.

Unfortunately despite encouragement from all the partners continued funding for the OPAS service was not secured and it ended on 31st March 2013.  Final outcomes reports will be produced.  Headline outcomes are :

  • £13,700,000 of benefit gain
  • Service provided to 9300 households
  • 11,500 visits completed
  • 7500 benefit claims made

Contacts - to find out more

Rhona Penman
Email: rpen@linkhaltd.co.uk
Tel: 01324 417174