Concerns raised over link between poverty and alcohol in Sunderland

Councillors have highlighted worries over poverty and alcohol consumption as key health issues to be addressed in Sunderland.

By Nic Marko
Friday, 15th July 2022, 12:35 pm
Concerns remain over harmful alcohol consumption. Picture by David Jones/PA Wire
Concerns remain over harmful alcohol consumption. Picture by David Jones/PA Wire

It came following a presentation on the 2021/22 annual report of Gerry Taylor, the city council’s director of public health, titled “Same Boat, Different Storms.”

It looked at how the pandemic has had lasting impacts on areas such as mental health, educational attainment, employment and pay levels and, coupled with the cost of living crisis, is pushing more people into poverty.

Communities were praised for showing “a great deal of resilience and spirit throughout this period”, but there were warnings over “many challenges” in the coming years.

Recommendations from the report include focusing on reducing inequalities, building on work with diverse and under-represented groups, continuing to provide local welfare support schemes and aiding children.

The findings came before the city council health and wellbeing board on Monday, July 11, with councillors praising the work but highlighting numerous areas of concern moving forward.

Councillor Louise Farthing, cabinet member for children, learning and skills, noted rising levels of poverty in areas such as Sunderland “adversely affects all aspects of people’s lives”.

She said: “It’s mentioned by children that they’re worried about their parents not having enough money or not enough to eat, it must worry older grandparents.

“We acknowledge we have food banks, some people celebrate them, I think it’s an absolute disgrace that we need to have food banks in this day and age.”

She also raised concerns over how any future national tax cuts could impact on the level of social care and welfare support available and have “an adverse effect on many people in Sunderland”.

Meanwhile Councillor Dominic McDonough, St Chad’s ward representative, noted there were some “stark findings” around issues such as rising child poverty and alcohol consumption.

He said: “Of course there are national factors, but also it does suggest to me that we’re not doing that well on some things in the city.

“For example alcohol consumption, there is a lot in there around cure, but it does seem slightly light on prevention.”

Director of public health Ms Taylor stressed a number of actions and strategies are lined up to reduce alcohol consumption, although she acknowledged it is an area they need to do more on.

She added they will be focusing on the issue with other organisations as part of their drug and alcohol partnership work.