Vital frontline services are in danger of being cut back, or closed altogether unless the Government urgently sets out public health funding for the next year, says the national membership body of local authorities.
A lack of certainty around council’s public health funding is exacerbating the growing crisis of demand for local essential services – such as for suicide prevention services, drug and alcohol treatment, and other mental health services.
The Local Government Association (LGA), an organisation that represents councils across England, has called on the Government to publish the Public Health Grant funding allocations which councils will receive from April, as Covid-19 intensifies long-standing pressures on services.
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Over the last few years, the confirmation of funding has been continually pushed back, with the 2020/21 grant only being announced in March of 2020. Consequentially the LGA said that time is running out as councils are currently having to make critical decisions on renewing contacts for public health services potentially leaving people without crucial help and support.
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Since 2015, public health funding grants to councils have been reduced by £700 million in real terms. Although in the October 2021 Spending Review the Government committed to maintaining the public health grant ‘in real terms’ until 2024/25.
Conservative councillor, David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Demand for vital treatment for drug and alcohol misuse, obesity, mental health and children’s health is rising and at risk of not being met, while we are still grappling with the impact of the Omicron surge.”
“The unprecedented mental and physical health toll of the pandemic will mean we could be seeing many more people coming forward for support, in addition to an existing backlog which has built up over the last two years.”
“It is wrong that we are still in the dark about how much there is to spend on this essential treatment and support, which will better protect our population from future pandemics. The Government should act now and publish councils’ public health grant without further delay, so that we can get on with planning ahead for an anticipated post-Covid surge in requests for help.”