THE IMPORTANCE of Reading’s parks in promoting wellbeing, offering early interventions, support for mental health and combatting social isolation, are just a few of the key priorities recently voiced by local people.
The findings are the result of the Council’s two month public health consultation, launched towards the end of 2018, which aimed to identify priorities and concerns of Reading residents.
The consultation generated over 260 written responses, as well as feedback gathered in person at a public meeting in December attended by 35 people.
People were invited to help ensure the Council addresses the right priority health issues for Reading and to comment on the principle of offering ‘healthy lifestyle’ support services differently in future.
Feedback was overwhelmingly in favour of the Council combining lifestyle support services in future – for example, a service which combines support to help people quit smoking, eat well, be physically active and stay in good emotional health. Several people stressed the benefits of centralised one-stop hubs for health and wellbeing, and called for more integration of services to encourage take-up at a range of community venues, including libraries, GP surgeries and children’s centres.
Whilst face to face support was still considered important, many people agreed there was also a place for digital and online services. There was also support for targeting those in greatest need.
Other headline findings from the consultation include:
· Parks, open spaces and good quality, affordable leisure provision to encourage physical activity were rated by most people as of top importance for overall health and wellbeing and in promoting weight management;
· The importance of a focus on early interventions with young people so as to give people strong foundations for a healthy life;
· An agreement that residents need to take some personal responsibility for their health but that targeted smoking cessation services and support to end drug or alcohol dependence were needed;
· Support for unpaid carers was a vital part of keeping the population well;
· A strong support for mental health services, specifically in relation to young people and in reducing social isolation.
Seona Douglas, Reading’s Director of Adult and Health Care Services, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to feedback to us on our public health consultation. The consultation has given us an insight into what matters to Reading residents in terms of health and wellbeing.
“Every effort has been made to ensure that the impact of funding reduction will be felt least in the communities where health initiatives are needed the most.
“The consultation was a chance for people to influence the way we deliver public health services over the next two years and all comments, priorities and concerns we received will feed into how we shape these vital services going forward. Many people suggested it would be useful to have further opportunities to comment. We intend to continue the conversation with our residents, asking them to give us more detailed feedback in specific areas, as new proposals are developed.
“This week we have also published the Council’s proposed public health budget for 2019/20. We have strived to continue to deliver the early intervention, preventative and support services we know people value, however, we also acknowledge that in future many of these services will need to be delivered differently in order to keep them sustainable and to protect the most vulnerable groups in our community.”
A report on the consultation will be presented at the Council’s Policy meeting on Monday 8th April. The consultation report can be viewed here: https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=138&MId=2988
Local residents’ response to the local public health agenda will be noted and the feedback has been taken into account in the proposed budget for 2019-20 and will be used in shaping services beyond 2019/20.
The proposed allocation of Reading’s Public Health Grant is also set to go before the Council’s Policy Committee on 8th April. The proposals set out the budget for the next three years, covering 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Under the proposals, the Council will use funds across the council to continue to deliver a number of prioritised services, ensuring support for the most vulnerable groups is promoted, whilst securing financial sustainability going forward.
A number of the proposals have been formulated for providing services in different ways, for example, offering more digital services.
Some services have been scaled back due to shifts in demand and through targeting services to reach those who need it most.
Reading’s Public Health grant allocation for 2019/20 is £9.500m which represents a 2.65% reduction of £258k on the £9.758m 2018-19 grant.