Monday, 18 July 2011

Action overdue to combat child poverty and health inequality in Reading

Get Reading today carries an article based on this year's Annual Health Profile which shows that public health in Reading continues to be significantly worse than other parts of the UK and health inequality continues to be a major issue.

This is not news but the fact that health inequality is still such a major issue should concern all of us.

Locally I have led calls for action by both Reading Borough Council and local health partners to close the gap - and in particular do more to reduce the impact poverty is having on children's health.

Two years ago I co-chaired a cross-party scrutiny review into this issue with Cllr Mark Ralph (Conservative) which made a series of recommendations to Labour councillors.

Our review reported just ahead of the General Election and disgracefully some Labour councillors
tried to use it as a political football - no doubt in an attempt to deflect attention from their failings in office.

The new Labour Lead Councillor, Cllr Tickner is pledging to take a hard look at the issue - which is very welcome.

Sadly, the new Labour administration has already signalled that tackling child poverty is not a priority and Cllr Tickner herself led plans to divert funding away from helping charities support children in poverty to community cohesion.

I really hope that as they become more familiar with the facts about the reality of child poverty in Reading  Labour councillors will change their minds and resolve to take action.

The Coalition Government is restoring powers and responsibility for improving public health back to councils - a move not seen since the Victorian era.

For the first time councils will receive funding to improve public health in their area - according to level of health need.

So far Labour councillors have spoken out against every aspect of proposed health reforms.

When it comes to something as important as  public health I really hope Cllr Tickner and her colleagues will feel able to put politics to one side and use new powers and new funding to fight poverty and the impact it has on health of children and adults across Reading.

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