Barnsley’s Director of Public Health 2022 Annual Report was presented to Cabinet members at their meeting today (Wednesday 5 April).
The report is an important way to provide advice and recommendations on the health of Barnsley residents to both professionals and the public, and for providing added value over and above intelligence and information routinely available.
Past reports have covered how the pandemic affected children and young people living in Barnsley “What matters to me now”; recorded how people felt regarding their physical and mental health via a single diary entry “A day in the life”, and an insight into the impact of loneliness on our residents’ lives, in a digital world “Are you contactless?”.
This year, the report has taken a different approach, looking in depth at how Barnsley Council has responded to the cost-of-living crisis, to mitigate the impact on people’s health, both immediately, and in the longer term.
News and information about the cost-of-living crisis are inescapable, it’s been the main topic of many news channels for some time now. Tackling poverty and addressing the related inequalities is not new for us as a council, and it’s at the heart of our public health practice.
However, the scale of the current crisis is extraordinary, and our report looking back at key actions taken during 2022 provides information on the work of the teams within the council and its partner agencies who have been instrumental in responding to the cost-of-living crisis, to the public, council staff and partners.
We will continue to deliver a response to the crisis throughout 2023 and develop longer term sustainable approaches that help alleviate poverty in our communities.
Poverty was already on the increase in Barnsley before COVID. Now with the significant gap between inflation and wage rises, we are seeing the inequality gap in our communities growing bigger. Families now need over £100 a month more to sustain normal levels of living.
While the cost-of-living crisis is having a significant impact across the country, it is disproportionately affecting boroughs like Barnsley where poverty was already increasing before the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening inequalities, and making life even harder for our poorest communities. The uncertainty of future cost increases is set to amplify these challenges further.
The DPH report provides evidence of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and how it is affecting households in our community. We show how we have responded using grants creatively and working with the community and voluntary sector to help us respond to the crisis.
Not only will the rising cost of living affect people’s immediate health and ability to access health care but also their longer-term health.
We have a borough-wide commitment with our partners to support people and businesses through this period of uncertainty and to continue to provide help to people who need it most.
We’ve really seen Barnsley pull together over the last two years, and we hope that this will continue. As a council, we have our own financial challenges with increases in fuel bills, goods, and services. We know people need support, but the council hasn’t got the money to fund all the things that people need.
What we can do is maximise the impact of the help we can provide, helping people to get the financial support, information and advice and supporting community initiatives into action.
The report contains some real stories that bring to life the impact of the support people have received.
Julia Burrows, Executive Director of Public Health and Communities, said:
“We are proud of our partnerships in Barnsley, built on trusted relationships and honest conversations. We have worked hard to offer grants to community groups who have risen to the challenge.
“We could not have done this without the partnerships we have in place, and we thank each and every one of the community groups and organisations that have worked and continue to work tirelessly to support those who need it most. I also want to recognise our officers in Barnsley Council who have coordinated this work.
“Although the excellent work of the council, its partners and the community and voluntary sector has been impressively responsive to the acute need we are seeing, we want our borough to be a place where we minimise the need for such extraordinary efforts because our residents already have decent incomes, good jobs, and warm homes.
“Our Barnsley 2030 ambitions bring partners working across Barnsley together in recognising Barnsley as a place of possibilities where we can achieve this.”
The DPH report 2022, along with an illustrative version, is hosted here: barnsley.gov.uk/services/health-and-wellbeing/our-reports/director-of-public-health-annual-report/