New report examines health and hardship in North Yorkshire

This story was published 5 November 2019

North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health has published a report setting out the links between poverty and ill-health.

Dr Sargeant and the Bishop of Ripon with the report

Dr Lincoln Sargeant’s analysis of poverty from a public health perspective argues that despite the changes that have taken place “there is still a striking similarity between poverty in the past and poverty today – they are still largely due to unemployment and low household income.”

The 2019 Annual Report is called “Life in times of change – health and hardship in North Yorkshire”. It examines the perceptions and reality of poverty in a historic context, from the days of the workhouse through the birth and growth of the welfare state, and identifies those areas of North Yorkshire where the impacts of poverty are seen today. 

Poverty, Dr Sargeant states, reduces both the quality and the length of life.  Most recent estimates suggest about 92,000 people in North Yorkshire fall into the government’s definition of poverty. Although at 15 per cent of the population this is considerably lower than the England average, it is a poverty that can be hidden from view; where people live with the challenges of poverty among less disadvantaged neighbours. Dr Sargeant notes the “re-emergence of destitution”, the growth in food banks and the rise of in-work poverty.

Dr Sargeant said: “This year, my report explores the relationship between poverty and health and how we might work to reduce the impact for those affected by deprivation in North Yorkshire.

“I believe we can make lasting change if we focus on people and places simultaneously, and my report makes recommendations for actions that we can take across our county to meet the challenges of poverty. It also highlights the support that North Yorkshire County Council with the district and borough councils, working alongside partner organisations, can deliver to help people in those areas from the worst effects of poverty.”

In 1942, the government published a landmark report that set out proposals for widespread reforms to tackle what were described as society’s ‘five giant evils’ – want, disease, ignorance, idleness and squalor – through a new system of social welfare.

The report became known as the Beveridge Report and its proposals led to the creation of the welfare state. Dr Sargeant, takes the first of the evils as the theme and looks at poverty (want) and its impact on the lives of people in some areas of the county today.

The report’s recommendations set out how all sectors should work together with communities and individuals to tackle poverty across the county:

  • work with Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Region deals to promote rural growth;
  • develop a strategy to tackle the effects of poverty in rural communities;
  • undertake a childhood poverty needs assessment leading to a strategy to tackle long-standing inequalities in health and education;
  • work closely with the Ministry of Defence’s new Defence Transition Service to support veterans as they enter civilian life in the county; 
  • help people living with complex problems to have a safe and stable environment where agencies can work together with them to manage their needs;
  • assess the impact of benefit changes on people’s mental and physical health; and
  • help communities make links with statutory organisations to develop a shared understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty in the local area and joint responses to reduce its impact.

Dr Sargeant stated: “This report is intended to be hard-hitting and thought provoking and I hope it will inspire people to come together and develop actions that will make a difference to people’s lives in tackling the great evil of poverty.”

Over the next four years the annual reports by the Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire will examine Beveridge’s other giant evils – disease, ignorance, idleness and squalor – in a historical and contemporary context. Download the full 2019 annual report.