Response to public health white paper and mental health strategy

Z2K recently responded to the Department of Health’s Public Health White Paper and Mental Health Strategy. We were strongly critical of the Department’s continued failure to fully recognise the proven negative impact of low incomes and debt on the physical and mental health of those both in and out of work.

Incomes are currently well below evidenced recommended Minimum Income Standards for many living on low wages or through government benefits. The government has not yet estimated the consequent cost to the health service, education, policing, labour markets, etc… As a result we simply do not know the full impact this policy of imposing poverty incomes in the UK has on its economy. Continue reading

Marmot: new data on the link between wealth and health inequalities

This morning Sir Michael Marmot published data showing how unequal health outcomes are between the richest and poorest parts of the country. Life expectancy and time spent in good health are shown to be heavily linked to social standing.

Some key point picked out by Randeep Ramesh in today’s Guardian are:

  1. 60% of five-year-olds in some of Britain’s poorest areas do not reach a “good level” of behaviour and understanding – double that found in wealthier suburban parts of England.
  2. Marmot, a public health specialist and author of Fair Society, Healthy Lives, said: “Education and child development are key for health. It is the educated who stop smoking … we know the key driver of teenage pregnancy is not getting early child development. You are not going to get pregnant as a teenager if you develop as a child.”
  3. There was also an alarming health gap opening up within areas. Marmot pointed out that in [Z2K’s home borough of] Westminster the average life expectancy of male residents was 83, five years longer than the English norm, but this masked wide disparities. The poorest in the London borough could expect to live 17 years less than the richest.

This evidence futher supports the need to support a minimum income standard across the UK so that people can afford to feed them selves and thier children a healthy diet, heat thier homes and while staying out of debt. The to the UK of failing to do this are currently  unpriced but likely to be large. The government already predicts that mental health (which is strongly linked to debt) costs the economy £105 Billion a year.

We must hope that the Welfare Reform Bill, due for publication next week, recognises the negative implications for everyone of imposing poverty incomes on the poorest.

A summary of our response to the Child Poverty Bill

We fully support the aim of the Child Poverty Bill to reduce the number of children in poverty, which using the relative measure of assessing family income after payment of housing costs and taxation is currently 4 million and more.

Our main concerns about the Bill include:
– Enforceability of obligations
– Incorporation of well being principle
Minimum income standards
– Measuring success

Read our proposed amendments to the Bill (PDF)

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