Friday, September 17, 2021

Universal Credit cut will widen health inequalities, warns charity

Cut likely to widen inequality in health and wellbeing and runs counter to government’s commitment to levelling up health, warns health charity.

The Health Foundation has warned that the proposed £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, which is scheduled to take effect in early October, is likely to have a detrimental effect on the mental health and wellbeing of millions of UK families. And will have a disproportionate effect on people who already have the poorest health.

According to the independent charity’s analysis, the average income loss for working-age families in the 10% of local authorities with the worst health will be nearly twice that of working-age families in the 10% of local authorities with the best health (£207 per year in the 10% of areas with the worst health, compared to £102 per year in areas with the best health).

According to the Health Foundation, this risks aggravating existing regional disparities, since communities with the worst health will see a bigger drop in government assistance.

With the impending cut to Universal Credit, the Health Foundation is emphasising the ‘indispensable relationship’ between people’s health and income.

According to the report, the decrease would eliminate critical assistance at a time when people are already stressed by growing debts and lower income, and would add to rising rates of mental illness.

Additionally, the Foundation argues that this would contradict the government’s goal to achieving equity in health across the country.

According to the study, residents of regions with a larger proportion of the population receiving Universal Credit are more likely to already have considerably poorer health.

Individuals who reside in the 10% of regions with the greatest proportion of Universal Credit claimants may expect to live 7.8 fewer years in excellent health on average (59.8 years vs 67.6 years than those living in the 10 percent of areas with the lowest share of Universal Credit recipients).

According to polling by the Health Foundation and Kantar, there is still widespread popular support for making the £20 increase permanent, which was implemented during the epidemic (51 percent of the UK public are in support with 22 percent against).

Perhaps most notably, Conservative voters support making the hike permanent by a margin of 40% to 33%.

Universal Credit’s share of the working-age population has doubled during the epidemic, going from 7% in February 2020 to 14% in May 2021.

The gains have been most noticeable in outer London and other cities, mostly in poorer regions that already had the greatest rates of Universal Credit eligibility prior to the outbreak.

Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, said: “The unequal impact of the pandemic on the poorest – in terms of more deaths from COVID-19 and falling family finances – reflects both long standing inequalities and a failure to prioritise support for the most vulnerable in our society.

“A cut to Universal Credit would be a step backwards and an indication that the government has not learned from mistakes of the recovery from the financial crisis.

“The pandemic is not yet over and if we are to avoid long-term scars, it is vital that we maintain this support on which so many families rely.

“The Chancellor must seriously consider the inextricable link between people’s income and their health in making this decision.

“A recovery led by investment in people and communities – in health, housing, skills and education – along with a safety net to protect the most vulnerable, will pay dividends for the nation’s health and prosperity in the longer term.

“Without a very serious attempt to improve the health of the nation, damaged not just by the pandemic but also, by the response to the 2008 financial crisis and structural economic change, “levelling up” will remain little more than a slogan.”

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