A review of the effectiveness and experiences of welfare advice services co-located in health settings: A critical narrative systematic review

Publication authors

SianReece Trevor A.Sheldon JosieDickerson Kate E.Pickett


We conducted a narrative systematic review to assess the health, social and financial impacts of co-located welfare services in the UK and to explore the effectiveness of and facilitators and barriers to successful implementation of these services, in order to guide future policy and practice. We searched Medline, EMBASE and other literature sources, from January 2010 to November 2020, for literature examining the impact of co-located welfare services in the UK on any outcome. The review identified 14 studies employing a range of study designs, including: one non-randomised controlled trial; one pilot randomised controlled trial; one before-and-after-study; three qualitative studies; and eight case studies. A theory of change model, developed a priori, was used as an analytical framework against which to map the evidence on how the services work, why and for whom. All studies demonstrated improved financial security for participants, generating an average of £27 of social, economic and environmental return per £1 invested. Some studies reported improved mental health for individuals accessing services. Several studies attributed subjective improvements in physical health to the service addressing key social determinants of health. Benefits to the health service were also demonstrated through reduced workload for healthcare professionals. Key components of a successful service included co-production during service development and ongoing enhanced multi-disciplinary collaboration. Overall, this review demonstrates improved financial security for participants and for the first time models the wider health and welfare benefits for participants and for health service from these services. However, given the generally poor scientific quality of the studies, care must be taken in drawing firm conclusions. There remains a need for more high quality research, using experimental methods and larger sample sizes, to further build upon this evidence base and to measure the strength of the proposed theoretical pathways in this area.