A recent analysis from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) has suggested that the poorest areas of England have seen the biggest cuts to councils’ public health budgets. What is more, it is these regions that have also been hit the hardest by COVID-19.
This type of funding is typically aimed at supporting stop smoking, weight loss and sexual health programmes on a local level however, since 2014, the IPPR North think tank has said that the public health grant has been cut by around £13.20 per person across England.
These cuts are also not evenly distributed. Communities such as Bensham in Gateshead are facing greater health issues due to the lack of funding into housing and jobs further contributing to the notion that, in the current climate of COVID-19 the virus, whilst arguably not discriminating, is more likely to have a worse impact on deprived communities. Moreover, other regional variations include the Midlands where the cuts equate to a loss of £16.70 per person and in northern areas it is £15.20 per person. The worse area affected though is the north east region, where cuts amount to a staggering £23.24 per person.
Anna Round, a senior research fellow at IIPR and one of the co-authors of the new report said that ‘investment in making health better has actually been cut most in the areas that most need it’.
Beyond issues regarding health, funding also helps programmes such as the Comfrey Garden project in Gateshead which offers refugees and asylum seekers skills training as well as giving them greater confidence and purpose. Hossein Elahi Boroujeni, a refugee from Iran started attending the courses, became a volunteer and is now a paid employee. He said, ‘you can see how different my life can be with Comfrey Project and without Comfrey Project’.
Amid the pandemic Public Health England has provided £10 billion to help councils cope with the pandemic. Whilst this is a positive sign of central government allowing local councils to take the reins on their finances, it seems there is a flaw in the plan. Although there is ‘no magic money tree’ in government, this recent report seems to beg the question of whether the cuts to help fund other projects are being made in the right places.