Voluntary Sector North West welcomes and supports the recommendations of Due North, the Inquiry on Health Equity for the North.

The inquiry shines further light on structural inequality – what Professor Marmot described in his 2010 review as the ‘organisation of misery’ – and its impact on health in England. The report makes the case for how the lack of social and economic opportunity in many areas of the North intertwines with poor health and reduced life expectancy. The link that the report identifies between health, poverty and quality of life from birth is compelling reason alone for actions that address this surely intolerable situation.

Where Due North strikes new ground is in its emphasis on addressing the economic causes of health inequity. We endorse the inquiry’s recommendation for a rebalanced relationship between local and national control over budgets and powers. However this is, as the inquiry makes clear, on the understanding that “budgets and powers are decentralised and used in ways that reduce economic and health inequalities”.

Devolution needs to include a clear understanding about what we need and how we work towards addressing the deepest long term challenges facing our communities.

Headline recommendations from the report:
1. Tackle poverty and economic inequality within the North, and between the North and the rest of England
2. Promote healthy development in early childhood
3. Share power over resources and increase the influence that the public has on how resources are used to improve the determinants of health
4. Strengthen the role of the health sector in promoting health equity.

Ben Barr, one of the lead authors, will discuss the report at our conference on 15th October.To book your place, visit the VSNW website.

VSNW Involvement
It was an honour for VSNW to be involved with the work of the inquiry but now we need to talk more fully with our voluntary and community sector partners about how we, as a sector, play a fuller role in tackling health inequity in the North and contributing to delivering the inquiry’s recommendations.

In thinking about our role in ‘healthy economies’ (as a sector) and how infrastructure organisations like VSNW and Regional Voices can better support the sector, we have identified a number of areas of potential activity (please see below). Also, we will meet with the Regional Director of the North of England Team in the next few weeks to discuss ways forward.

Potential actions for the voluntary and community sector in addressing health inequity:
1. Understand how voluntary and community groups can contribute to local intelligence about health inequity, and how this intelligence can be ‘translated’ into local action
2. Support community leads to get involved on the understanding that communities can influence, share in driving change, co-design and co-commission place-based services and connect to professional expertise
3. Support the development of intelligent local investment strategies that build connections (networks) and community capacity (knowledge, opportunities, motivation) especially with regard to early years’ public service delivery outcomes
4. Re-energise sector involvement in delivering holistic employment support with an emphasis on the person and on building confidence, wellbeing and opportunities
5. Strive to become Living Wage employers and ensure that volunteering is not used as a form of job substitution.
6. Develop an effective voluntary sector workforce strategy, e.g. in a developing early years’ delivery landscape.

Please contact me with your thoughts: warren.escadale@vsnw.org.uk