Intelligent Health’s Head of External Affairs, Emily Carter provides a quarterly round-up on the organisation’s multi-sector policy influencing activity along with relevant updates from across the devolved administrations.
A return from this Summer’s parliamentary recess started off with a bang! Our CEO and I met with Stuart Andrew MP, the Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society in Whitehall to discuss all things Beat the Street, share our evidence and advocate for cross-departmental benefits of increasing physical activity.
In October, alongside other businesses within the Enterprise Forum, William attended a breakfast meeting with Minister Rachel Maclean MP. Rachel is the Minister of State for Housing and Planning in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and is responsible for planning reform and building better. We are now engaging further with DLUHC about integrating active travel and green spaces into the planning process. Alongside activity across government departments, William continues to regularly engage with Minister Trudy Harrison within the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs on the health benefits of nature access.
With many in the public affairs sphere looking directly towards the next general election, I attended a health sector dinner hosted by Lodestone Communications, hearing from former Deputy Labour Party Leader, Lord Tom Watson about the party’s plans for a cross-sector working relationship to revolutionise the NHS. Other speakers included former NHS Chiefs and representatives from healthcare foundations. Along with many other expert voices across the health and physical activity sectors, our CEO was also invited to Kim Leadbeater MP’s ‘Healthy Britain’ symposium, hearing from valued speakers such as Michael Marmot and Wes Streeting MP.
Following on from this, we were also fortunate to be invited to an audience with Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting by Cavendish Communications. Talking on his recently published book, this intimate event provided our CEO with an opportunity to ask questions related to how Labour seeks to tackle the issues that are arising with an ageing population. Currently, we are endeavouring to continue our conversation with the Shadow Health Team in respect of preventative health and enabling people to live well for longer.
After a couple of shorts weeks back in the Chambers, parliament rose for party conference season in September, with the major parties going to their members, press and the public with their priorities for the next year and beyond outlined in main stage speeches and fringe events.
I attended the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, with a keen eye to find out more from fringe events discussing preventative health, community action and active travel. Of particular note was a fringe event ran by Labour’s Environment Campaign, which included Lee Waters MS the portfolio holder for climate change in the Welsh Government and the CEO of Living Streets amongst the panellists to discuss how to make our streets more walkable; and a fringe focussing on community power, led by Local Trust with CEO Matt Leach on the panel alongside representatives from Big Local and the Labour Leader of Stoke City Council. Notable policy announcements included bringing better sport, culture and the arts into schools through a new creative curriculum, using technology to cost hospital waiting lists and banning junk food adverts targeted to children.
Governing party, the Conservatives met in Manchester for their conference. All eyes were to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in his first conference as Prime Minister, as he announced the expected cuts to HS2 infrastructure into the North of England. Key new policy announcements included a staggered ban on smoking (which Sunak noted as the largest cause of preventable ill health), a new ‘Advanced British Standard’ to replace A Levels and T Levels in the future and a £30million fund to invest in tech across the NHS.
Kicking off the conferences in late September, the Liberal Democrats convened in Bournemouth. Party leadership was challenged by the youth wing who defied the party line on ’NIMBYism’ (meaning not in my backyard-ism!) voting on a motion calling for a national target on greater housebuilding. Other key takings included the protection of National Lottery funding directed towards sport and physical activity, devolving greater powers to the regions, investing in public health and prevention, creating new active travel networks (including reversing cuts to the budget), legislating for a right to clean air and planting at least 60 million trees a year.
Closing party conference season, the Scottish National Party saw Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf take to the stage in Aberdeen to make a few new policy announcements which included a freeze on Council Tax and an additional £100million a year to help cut NHS waiting lists.
At the end of November, the team were at WhySports ‘Improving Health and Increasing Activity’ conference with William speaking on a panel with Paul Foster, Deputy Chief Executive from Burnley Leisure and Culture about community engagement at scale, taking examples from our Burnley and Merton Beta the Street games earlier this year. William spoke about building resilience in communities to improve mental and how Beat the Street is a tool for local authorities to bring about system change. Our partnerships team were also in attendance, speaking to attendees from our stand. Thank you to those who took the opportunity to have a chat with us about our programmes!
Having been involved in Youth Sport Trust’s ‘School Sport and Activity Sector Forum’ since its inception, I attended the annual partnership forum at Aston Villa Stadium in September. Here, we heard updates from DCMS and the DFE regarding updates to Get Active and the School Sport and Activity Action Plan. It was also an opportunity to convene with colleagues from across the sport and physical activity sector and set ambitions for shared messaging and campaigns to advance the cause of school sport and PE.
We were in attendance for the parliamentary launch of Nature 2030. Nature 2030 is being headed by the Wildlife and Countryside Link and Intelligent Health is one of dozens of partner organisations making calls to political parties with five urgent reforms to meet natural environment targets in the next Parliament. Relevant parliamentarians, including Minister Trudy Harrison, were on a panel discussing the launch of the five reforms, which includes the ‘right to a healthy environment.’
There’s also been activity in our work with All-Party Parliamentary Groups during this period. In September we attended the launch of the APPG for Cycling and Walking Road Justice report, which calls for tangible actions to make our roads a safer place to actively travel and the APPG for ‘Left Behind’ Neighbourhoods parliamentary reception where they launched ‘A neighbourhood strategy for national renewal,’ of which we submitted evidence to in the inquiry stage of their work into levelling up.
During October we submitted evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee for its inquiry into ‘Urban green spaces.’ In this response we:
- Championed measures to enhance and protect the provision of safe urban green and blue spaces.
- Highlighted how in-need communities are most disproportionately impacted by lack of access to quality green spaces.
- Discussed the air quality health-related disparities faced by communities living in urban areas.
- Advocated for more ambitious policies to increase green cover in urban areas to 40%.
If you would like to understand more of our thinking, you can read the response in full here.
If you would like to input any of the subject matters in any future evidence submissions or to collaborate on a joint response, please contact me via email.
We will continue to provide relevant political updates throughout the year, if you have not done so already, please sign up to our Partner Newsletter to receive quarterly policy round-ups directly to your inbox.