Prior to the restoration of the Assembly, Permanent Secretary for Health, Richard Pengelly was unable to progress this issue in the absence of ministerial sign-off, Mr Durkan said.
The Foyle MLA said: “The ring-fencing of Sugar Tax funds to tackle health related issues is something I have worked hard to progress. The costs associated with treating obesity, diabetes and poor oral health throughout the North are increasing year on year. It’s clear that these are growing concerns, affecting swathes of the population- recent estimations suggest that over a quarter of people here are obese. The ring-fencing of funds from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to tackle these conditions has been implemented elsewhere on these islands yet has been stalled here.
“When it comes to health, prevention is not only better but often easier and cheaper, than cure.”
Mr Durkan said other jurisdictions have been using Sugar Tax funds to help with prevention and reduction of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
“In 2019, I raised this proposal with the Permanent Secretary who stated that efforts had been made across several departments. As far as I’m aware agreement had been reached to direct in the region of £14m via Barnett consequential, towards tackling these issues. Ultimately this could not be progressed any further. I am buoyed by Minister Swann’s response to my request, in which he confirmed that his department will give consideration to this proposal as part of their Obesity Strategy.”