A recent report involving the School found that the North of England’s economy has been hit harder than the rest of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic with inequalities between the North and the rest of the country exacerbated.
The Northern Health Science Alliance, NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (North East and North Cumbria, Greater Manchester, North West Coast, Yorkshire and Humber), and the NIHR School of Public Health Research report COVID-19 and the Northern Powerhouse: Tackling Health Inequalities for UK Health and Productivity looks at the impact of COVID-19 on the health and economic inequalities between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of England.
It found the pandemic hit the North harder and more deeply and that mitigating measures must be put in place to stop inequalities rising further and faster.
What does this mean for children in the North of England?
Childhood health is a key predictor of a person’s future health and economic productivity. There are substantial, persistent regional inequalities in child health: children living in the North have worse health outcomes than children living in the rest of England.
Child poverty is a key determining factor of poor health. In the North of England child poverty rates are amongst the highest in the country with rates as high as 41% in parts of the North East.
The pandemic has negatively impacted on education, employment and mental health for children and young people. In future, the productivity gap between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of the country is likely to worsen without further action.
Professor David Taylor-Robinson, Professor of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool, and Children, Young People and Families Programme Lead for the NIHR School for Public Health Research, said: “The poor child health of children in the North of England is unacceptable, and a major driver of the stark inequalities in later adult health and productivity documented in this report.
“The pandemic has made things worse, and the dramatic rise in child poverty predicted will have negative impacts for generations to come unless we take concerted action. To have any chance of ‘levelling-up’ it is essential that families with children are prioritised in the pandemic response and that immediate action is taken to reduce child poverty.”
Recommendations to improve child health
- Reduce child poverty – increase child benefit, increase the child element of Universal Credit by £20 per week, extend provision of free childcare, remove the benefit cap and the two-child limit; and extend provision of free school meals. Invest in children’s services by increasing government grants to local authorities in the Northern Powerhouse.
- Create northern ‘Health for Life’ centres offering a life-long programme of health and wellbeing advice and support services from pre-natal to healthy ageing programmes. Targeted to the most deprived areas in the North, they will take a preventative approach to health directly into the communities which need it most.
- Develop a national strategy for action on the social determinants of health with the aim of reducing inequalities in health, with a key focus on children.
- Recommit to ending child poverty.