The Government’s decision to maintain public health grant funding in real terms – and not increase it – is ‘unfathomable’ following years of budget reductions, umbrella groups have warned.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the cash as part of his plan to support families in his budget on Wednesday. The public health grant is given to local authorities to fund preventative services such as health visiting, drug and alcohol services, and sexual health clinics.
Mr Sunak also committed £500m over the next three years to expanding family hubs, perinatal mental health support, breastfeeding services and parenting programmes. The cash will also go towards the Supporting Families programme, providing up to 300,000 families with extra support.
But Professor Jim McManus, interim president at the Association of Directors of Public Health, called it ‘unfathomable’ that the Government ‘has not prioritised’ public health. He argued this will lead to ‘significant pressures and reductions’ in public health following a 24% real-terms cut since 2015/16.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Health Visiting raised concerns about the lack of strategy to deliver the additional 3,000 health visitors they estimate are needed over the next three years. This comes after nursing leaders yesterday criticised the budget for not doing enough to support the NHS workforce.
In addition, councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: ‘No increase in public health funding, despite this incredibly challenging period, runs contrary to addressing the stark health inequalities exposed by Covid-19 and levelling up our communities.’
Announcing the plan on Wednesday, Mr Sunak said the evidence is ‘compelling’ that the 1,001 days of a child’s life are the ‘most important’, and highlighted Andrea Leadsom MP’s report in March 2021 calling for all prospective parents to have access to a ‘Start for Life’ package of services.
Family Hubs are centres for families with children and young people aged 0-19. Support offered can include early education and childcare, mental health support, meetings with health visitors or attending parenting classes, counselling or advice for victims of domestic abuse.