THE MOST vulnerable residents living on the Capital’s “Benefit Streets” can expect to live to an average age of just 45.
Now services for are to be radically overhauled in an effort help them live healthier and longer lives.
The city has admitted that those most in need – whose lives may be blighted by a combination of drug abuse, mental and physical ill health, homelessness or domestic violence – do not receive the most effective help.
The shocking statistic is among a series of factors that has sparked health leaders to commit to a “wide-ranging and transformational review” of the way Edinburgh inhabitants with “very complex needs” are assisted.
The council, NHS Lothian, police, voluntary groups and even the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are to work together on the project, dubbed “Inclusive Edinburgh”, after city chiefs said that previous activity was “not always as successful as we would like”.
It hoped that by redesigning services for the “small, but highly demanding group of people”, fewer will find themselves in trouble and will instead lead “meaningful and fulfilled lives”.
Ricky Henderson, the city’s health leader, said the life expectancy figure was “shocking” but was sadly symptomatic of the lifestyles led by a proportion of the city’s population.
“We’ve been honest enough to say that we don’t know all the answers but that the way we currently provide services is not delivering positive outcomes,” he said. “Anecdotal accounts suggest people are pinging around the system. There is a lot of intervention and contact with professionals but it doesn’t seem to have the effect of people dealing with the issues in their lives.
“These people may not be top of the sympathy list, but they can very much be a product of circumstance. We have a responsibility to them, they are human beings and citizens of our city, and we need to do what we can to help them in their time of need. We need to make sure the changes are the right changes, but my anticipation is that they will be fundamental.”
A consultation is set to be launched over how to achieve aims which include getting the most disadvantaged into work, with employment seen as the one of the best routes to recovery, and reducing offending. Increasing access to specialist services and reaching out to areas such as hostels, hospitals and prisons is likely to form part of the new strategy.
The review follows A Mental Welfare for Scotland report, published in 2007, into the care of a prisoner with mental health issues. Following the probe, councils and health boards were told to review the delivery of “effective interventions” to those who “often challenge thresholds, rules, norms, and who move from area to area”.
The group is “marginalised within society, often coming from backgrounds of trauma and abuse,” the city council has said.