'Vital fabric of civil society that supports people’s health and wellbeing is withering'

09 Jul 2019 News

The “vital fabric of civil society that supports people’s health and wellbeing is withering”, charity leaders have warned in a letter to the Observer newspaper. 

Chief executives and senior leaders from the charity and voluntary sector have written to the Observer calling for cuts to health a social care services to be stopped.

Signatories included Vicky Browning, chief executive at charity  Acevo and Tom Watson, business manager at the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (Navca).

The letter said: “The vital fabric of civil society that supports people’s health and wellbeing is withering.”

It asked politicians to “reverse the cuts to councils’ public health grants” and to focus the prevention green paper, due this summer from the Department of Health and Social Care, on rebuilding communities.

The 21 signatories, which included chief executives and directors from some prominent UK health and care charities, also called for a wellbeing fund to “rebuild and sustain vital services”.

Growing evidence of effectiveness

The letter articulated how services such as children’s centres “have been lost” in spite of evidence that the programme Sure Start, which began in 1999, improved families' health and therefore benefited the NHS.

It said services provided by the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) locally were paid for by local councils.

But funding to local authorities had fallen and the government had “failed to decide on the future for social care”.

‘Rebuild the social fabric’

Dr Charlotte Augst, chief executive from National Voices, the umbrella body for charities in health and care and a signatory of the letter to the Observer, wrote in HSJ: “It is high time we rebuild the social fabric that supports good and long lives.”

She said: “The long trailed prevention green paper could be an opportunity to put some of this right. 

“If this paper wants to achieve its aim of adding years to people’s lives, and life to people’s years, it needs to address the factors that actually shape people’s health and wellbeing. 

“Many people inside and outside government have quietly worked away at strengthening the narrative in the green paper that links health outcomes not just to 'personal choices' or 'lifestyles', but the environment we live in, the communities we are a part of, and the inequalities that affect people and places.”

Prevention green paper 2019

The prevention green paper was supposed to be published this week, according to the Guardian.

Matt Hancock, health secretary, said in November when the paper was announced: “A focus on prevention and predictive medicine isn’t just the difference between life and death, it’s the difference between spending the last 20 years of your life fit and active, or in constant pain from a chronic condition. 

“So our focus must shift from treating single acute illnesses to promoting the health of the whole individual. 

“That requires more resources for prevention.”

His plans included reducing loneliness and social isolation and making social prescribing, enabling GPs to refer patients to a link worker to personalise solutions, available locally across the UK by 2023.


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