Government defends public health grants as Suffolk and Essex among lowest funded
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The Government has defended its decision to reduce public health grants, after latest figures revealed that Suffolk and Essex were among the lowest funded per head.
Data released by the Department for Health and Social care showing public health grants for 2017/18, and indicative allocations for the next two years revealed that Suffolk was awarded £30.7 million – the equivalent of £41 per head, while Essex was granted £64.1m, equating to £44 per head.
Over the next two years both authorities are facing reduced grants, as mirrored across the country.
However, despite the reduction, the two authorities are still facing significantly less funding than other authorities, with just 17 other authorities receiving less than Suffolk.
Areas such as Middlesbrough, Blackpool and London boroughs are awarded around three times as much per head, while the City of London is granted more than four-and-a-half times that of Suffolk.
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A Government spokesman said the grant funding was based on historic levels of funding from the NHS in those areas, before responsibility switched to LAs in 2013, and said that all LAs were facing the same 2.6% reduction until 2020.
The DfH said it would provide authorities the “clarity they need” to plan and deliver vital services.
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Councils are able to prioritise which areas of public health gain the most funding, but includes school nurse services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation schemes, sexual health and obesity services.
Abdul Razaq, Suffolk County Council’s director of public health and protection, said: “While Suffolk has one of the lowest grant allocations and spend per head in the East of the England, we continue to achieve positive outcomes through the work our public health team and the organisations we commission deliver on a daily basis.
“The indicative grant allocation for Suffolk for 2019/20 is expected to be a further reduction of £792,000 and plans are in place to ensure public health services are delivered in the most effective and efficient manner possible to continue to deliver high quality services to those who use them.”
From 2020, public health grants are due to be scrapped and authorities will use their own retained business rate income to fund public health, although this is subject to further legislation and measures to make it viable.
John Spence, cabinet member for health and adult social care and health at Essex County Council, said: “We have a track record of providing innovative, high quality and above all successful public health services throughout Essex.
“Our public health grant has recently reduced and historically has been less than other authorities have received.
“We have done a great deal of work to ensure that services are maintained, including using innovative approaches such as increased use of technology in allowing people access to sexual health services from digital devices and social workers identifying and referring older people who may be suffering from depression.”