An advice service targeting residents facing the highest levels of inequality in Oxfordshire is set to launch this November.

The service brings together two separate programmes from Oxfordshire County Council’s public health and health, education and social care teams, increasing the overall funding and widening the reach of the programme.

Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said: “The link between financial hardship and health and wellbeing can be a vicious cycle.

Herald Series: Councillor Tim BearderCouncillor Tim Bearder (Image: Oxfordshire County Council)

"Poor health can lead to financial difficulties through reduced access to education and limiting employment opportunities.

"Living with the stress and anxiety of financial hardship can have a damaging impact on long-term health and wellbeing.

“By combining our resources and bringing financial and health advice resources together, we can offer even greater support to people living in Oxfordshire, enabling them to live well and independently within their own communities."

The new service merges the Oxfordshire Specialist Advice Service and the Benefits in Place programme.

It will offer free, impartial advice on benefits, debt, budgeting, and financial and welfare issues.

The goal is to help residents maximise their income, allowing them to live comfortably in their own homes and communities.

Councillor Nathan Ley, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for public health, inequalities and community safety, said: "It's clear that health and financial wellbeing are deeply interconnected: poor health can lead to financial strain, just as financial troubles can adversely affect health.

Herald Series: Councillor Nathan LeyCouncillor Nathan Ley (Image: Unknown)

"While Oxfordshire could generally be considered a healthier part of the country than most others, we can’t ignore that some pronounced disparities remain, particularly with the gap in health outcomes between our wealthiest and most disadvantaged areas.

"By offering this improved support, we're not just addressing a need, we're taking a significant step towards bridging these gaps at the root cause level.

"It represents a critical move in ensuring those most in need receive the comprehensive assistance necessary for both their financial and health wellbeing."

The new programme was built following consultations with people who used the council’s advice services in the past year.

The aim is to carry on this dialogue before the service's official launch to incorporate residents' suggestions and possible improvements.

Data suggests a growing dependence on the council's existing advice services, indicating a demand for the council's initiative.

Usage has increased by nine per cent on previous years, with more than half of those reaching out aged 75 or older.

Funds have been earmarked to modernise the provision, such as the potential use of artificial intelligence, to better redirect residents to the assistance they require.