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Health inequalities: Deprivation and poverty case studies

Explore case studies from councils that show how COVID-19 exacerbated inequalities faced by those living in deprived communities and how they supported them. This work informs part of the health inequalities hub, which is funded by UK Government.

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The impact of the pandemic has not been felt evenly. People in the most deprived areas have been more likely to fall seriously ill with virus, but they have also been the most affected by society’s attempts to control it too.

Lockdowns and restrictions have disproportionately affected low income families and those with young children. Job insecurity has increased and the economic effects have been deeper in the poorest communities.

What is more, the fallout from the pandemic is likely to be felt for years to come, threatening to widen inequalities even further. Before the pandemic there were already growing levels of child poverty, homelessness and food poverty - and this was affecting health and wellbeing.

Concerted efforts are now needed to tackle such issues along with the impact of the rising cost of fuel – or the toxic legacy of the pandemic will blight the most deprived communities for generations to come.

Councils across the country have recognised this and are working in a variety of ways with partners to support their communities. There are schemes to find work for young people, such as the one in Wiltshire which is working with those who have dropped out of education and employment. Others, like Gateshead, are looking at debt and financial insecurity.

Food poverty remains a key focus for many with some areas working to turn food banks into social supermarkets to provide a better long-term solution to give people access to low-cost, healthy products.

Meanwhile, in Gloucestershire the council is targeting support at the families who have had babies born during the pandemic, offering extra help so they are not left behind.

Social isolation and loneliness remains a major concern too. East Suffolk is addressing that head on by providing funding to local schemes – and to make sure they money goes where it is needed most it has worked to identify the hidden needs in its communities through detailed data analysis.

This, though, needs to be just the start. Local government is going to have to be relentless in its desire to build partnerships and work with local communities to help recovery from the pandemic.

Key statistics 

  • 22 per cent of people living in poverty (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
  • 31 per cent of children living in poverty (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
  • 1 in 2 working age adults with poor health have no savings (Health Foundation)
  • 60 per cent higher rates of chronic illness in the most deprived areas (King’s Fund)
  • 19 years – the gap in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas (ONS)