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Improving health and reducing inequalities: Combined Authorities Programme A funding programme to support combined authorities to improve health and be more effective at tackling health inequalities

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  • A £1.6 million programme to investigate how combined authorities can improve health and reduce inequalities, by taking action across the region.   

  • £1.3 million awarded to the West Midlands Combined Authority to oversee the three-year programme, working initially with seven other combined authorities. 

  • The programme set-up phase is underway and the delivery phase will start in June 2023. 

Combined authorities hold the levers for many of the wider determinants of health, for example employment opportunities, transport and planning.  Therefore, there are significant opportunities to improve health and reduce inequalities through action at the regional level.  

Regional devolution remains high on the political agenda, with the Levelling Up White Paper setting out a mission that ‘by 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal’. 

The Health Foundation’s Combined Authorities Programme will support combined authorities to make the most of the levers they have to act, by bolstering capacity to improve health. 

What are combined authorities?

A combined authority is a statutory form of collective decision-making between at least two councils. There are currently nine combined authorities with a directly elected Mayor in England, plus the Greater London Authority.  

They were set up to enable the devolution of some powers and decisions to regions in England, so that those regions can tackle cross-cutting issues, through joint working and collaboration between local authorities within an area, led by a directly elected mayor who has a mandate and accountability to take action. The government gives combined authorities the money and power to make some key decisions for their region.  

The responsibilities that are devolved to each authority vary, depending on the regional negotiations with the government. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has the widest range of functions, including social care, public health and children’s services. 

About the programme

The West Midland Combined Authority will oversee the three-year programme. They will host a central team to drive action across the consortia member authorities. They will do this by providing direct support, catalysing collective influence and adding capacity to the member authorities through consultancy activity. This will include working with regions to replicate successful practice through support with tools, resources and expertise eg offering masterclasses on agreed topics, webinars on emerging issues and case study development or focusing on joint targeted policy areas across members such as cost of living responses and longer-term approaches. There is additional funding for a learning partner to bring together and distil the key insights from the programme, and for data analysis. 

West Midlands Combined Authority is working with seven other combined authorities in the consortia to deliver the programme: Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, North of Tyne, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Tees Valley and Greater London Authority.  

Dr Mubasshir Ajaz, Head of Health and Communities at West Midlands Combined Authority and the programme Senior Responsible Officer said “This is a huge boost to our efforts to ensure combined authorities have a tangible impact on the health of people living in their regions. It will increase understanding of the available levers to reduce inequalities, help us make significant progress on regional health priorities, and strengthen collaboration between the combined authorities.” 

Along with supporting combined authorities to be more effective to improve health and take action to tackle health inequalities, the programme aims to:  

  • grow the evidence base on how combined authorities can add value 
  • form a network of peer learning 
  • increase understanding within combined authorities of available levers 
  • make tangible progress on specific activity to tackle health inequalities 
  • strengthen collaborative arrangements between combined authorities  
  • and sustain capacity to prioritise work on health inequalities. 

This work joins a collection of complimentary Health Foundation projects focusing on local government.  For example, funding the Cities Health Inequalities Project, which explored opportunities for devolved English regions to tackle health inequalities. Funding the Shaping Places for Healthier Lives programme to explore how coordinated action by a local authority and its partners can improve physical and mental health.  And funding the Economies for Healthier Lives programme to support local and combined authorities to strengthen relationships between economic development and health.   

Contact information 

For more information about this programme, please contact Grace.Scrivens@wmca.org.uk, Health Inequalities Policy Officer at West Midlands Combined Authority. 

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