Deprivation in Leeds as serious as Liverpool or Manchester, meeting hears

Inequality in Leeds needs to be tackled sooner rather than later, otherwise the city could be storing up major health problems for its citizens in the future, health chiefs have warned.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 3:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 3:32 pm

At a meeting of Leeds City Council’s health and wellbeing board, officers claimed that more than a third of primary school aged children now lived in some of the city’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and that a greater number of elderly people, often with serious health problems, were now living in the city.

Committee members also heard how those living in poorer areas were at increased risk of health problems – particularly Covid-19 – a phenomenon known as health inequalities, with one council officer comparing the situation in Leeds’s most deprived communities with that of Liverpool and Manchester.

Leeds City Council’s chief health partnerships officer Tony Cooke told the meeting: “The ageing population trends are continuing – serious issues with long term conditions, with many people ageing in poor health. We need to get our heads round how to prevent some of this stuff.

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Leeds has more than a third of primary school-aged children living in the top decile of deprivation. (Pic: Adobestock)

“A key one is around school age population – it’s growing and becoming more diverse, increasingly concentrated in deprived areas, with real implications for social mobility.

“If you have more older people and more younger people, there is a significant squeeze on people of working age. I don’t think we have fully understood what the medium and longer term implications of that are.”

He cited index of multiple deprivation (IMD) data – which takes into account issues such as health, employment and community safety – adding that almost a quarter of people in Leeds live in the poorest IMD grouping. Primary school aged children had an even higher representation in this group – with more than a third of under-11s living in the group, known as IMD decile one, and more than half of “new” pupils starting primary school.

Mr Cooke added: “We are also seeing a real reduction in the number of children starting school in more affluent areas – so there is a real risk of some of our more affluent areas being broadly child-free.”

He added that the difference in life expectancy between a resident of Burmantofts and Richmond Hill, and of Adel and Wharfedale is 11 years for a man and 14 years for a woman. Data showed a link between those living in deprived communities and Covid deaths, and that poorer living and working conditions increase exposure to Covid and other illnesses.

The council’s head of policy and intelligence Simon Foy added: “If you count the number of people who live in the highest quartile of deprivation, it is comparable to Manchester and Liverpool. That passes central Government by – when they look for cities that are deprived, they think of Manchester and Liverpool – they don’t think of Leeds. But there is a ‘Manchester’ or ‘Liverpool’ in the centre of the Leeds local authority boundary.”

Tim Ryley is head of the Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, which co-ordinates most primary NHS care in the city. He warned that economic and health inequalities had the greatest impact on those who hadn’t performed well at school, and that one of the ways to help children and young people succeed academically was to help address mental health issues.

He said: “At one level, some of the figures are quite depressing, and present some challenges to us as a city. We know that a disproportionate amount of NHS activity is driven by those that are suffering from inequality.

“What these figures indicate to us is that will be a higher demand on services (such as) mental health services, acute services, community based services.

“The reality is that unless we address the health inequalities and the sheer scale, we are going to see a growing demand, not a reducing demand.

“For children’s mental health, the NHS can have a significant impact in the medium to long term if we get it right – those are factors in why those children don’t attain. It’s important we intervene as quickly as possible.”