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UNEQUAL WIRRAL: Health inequalities in Wirral laid bare by the pandemic

 

Health inequalities in Wirral have been exasperated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Wirral is a hugely unequal borough and some say Covid-19 is making the situation even worse.

As the Liverpool Echo reported last week, a person’s life expectancy can differ by almost 12 years depending on where you live in the borough.

Women living in Wallasey can expect to live up to 87.7 years, while women living in Rock Ferry had a life expectancy of 76.5 – a difference of 11.8 years.

For men, the Birkenhead and Tranmere ward had the lowest life expectancy at 72.8 years, while in the ward of Greasby, Frankby and Irby you could expect to live to 83.7 – a difference of 10.7 years.

Today, Wirral Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board discussed its plans to alter this serious health inequality.
Two major projects are involved in this effort.

One of these is Reach Out, which is currently paid for through Wirral Ways to Work funding provided by the European Social Fund.

This service has given employment support to 7,600 people since it started in 2016.
Another initiative is called Connect Us. One of its methods is to engage with unemployed people through door knocking to help them overcome the barriers that are preventing them from getting a job.

Rachael Musgrave, a public health consultant at Wirral Council, said this work will become increasingly important with unemployment growing as a result of the pandemic.

Ms Musgrave added that the authority was adapting its programmes to address the key issues which affect people’s lives based on feedback it had received.

Since March 2020, the claimant count, a key measure of unemployment, had increased by 5,215, or 73%.
In the most deprived areas of the borough, such as Birkenhead and Seacombe, unemployment rates can reach up to 17%, with young men aged 18-24 the group most affected.

A central part of Wirral Council’s strategy towards tackling health inequality and poverty is its regeneration programmes.

The most notable such scheme is in Birkenhead, where it is hoped that hundreds of homes, a new permanent site for Birkenhead Market and high quality office space, among other developments, will help to overturn decades of decline.

Cllr Janette Williamson, leader of Wirral Council, said the fact the authority is using regeneration to benefit communities is “brilliant”.

The Labour leader added that it was important for the council to help people to gain meaningful employment and well paid work.

A report prepared for the meeting stated that when an unemployed person moves into a job paying the National Living Wage, the amount all workers are entitled to once they turn 23, there are savings of £6,900 for the government, a £13,100 boost to the local economy, and a £6,500 gain to the individual.

For Cllr Willaimson this made the case for treating people fairly and giving them decent jobs.

A chilling statistic from the report was that the death rate from Covid-19 in the most deprived areas of the country was almost double that of the least deprived areas between March and July 2020, the latest period for which mortality figures by deprivation are available.

Commenting on this, the Liscard councillor said that if any statistic showed how inequality had worsened during the pandemic, that was the one.

 

Written by George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter


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