A Children's Health Fund
A twenty pence per litre duty on sugary drinks would expect to raise between £300m to £1 billion in its first year.[i]
We propose that revenues earmarked from a sugary drink duty pay for programmes to improve children's health and protect the environment they grow up in. We have launched a Children’s Health Fund, to trial this idea through a levy on soft drinks in participating restaurants.
The ‘earmarking’ of taxes is a premise that is gaining support even under the current government, with a re-calibrated Vehicle Excise Duty (or ‘road tax’) to be put exclusively into a new Roads Fund from 2020. Keeping the money raised from a sugary drinks duty within the Treasury could mean it was spent on big ticket, evidence-based interventions such as extending the eligibility of free school meals, subsidising fruit and vegetable provision, or boosting Healthy Start programmes. However, if it was put into a hived off pot, managed akin to the Big Lottery Funds, there would be both more security that the money would be used for the purposes raised, and flexibility over local needs.
Either way, the money for innovative public health interventions would be timely given public health budgets are being cut by £200 million in 2015, which equates to a 6.2% reduction in each local authority’s allocation.[ii]
Sustain are piloting a smaller scale version of the Children’s Health Fund, partnering with Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group, Leon and hopefully other restaurants. By putting a 10p levy on soft drinks with added sugar on their menus, this concept can be tested to see how it affects customer purchasing habits. The customer payment will go into a Children’s Health Fund, which in the first instance will support programmes and schemes aimed at improving children’s health and food education.
[i] Estimates for income raised vary depending on modelling parameters, especially whether using manufacturers’ sales data or self-reported consumption data to assess consumption levels.
[ii] Department of Health, Local authority public health allocations 2015/16: in-year savings: a consultation (July 2015) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/450508/Cons_doc_HA_version.pdf