The harmful impact of low incomes on health is beyond doubt. Ground breaking reports after ground breaking reports over decades have produced the necessary conclusive evidence. Professors Black 1980, Acheson 1999, Wanless 2002 and Marmot 2010 have all informed governments low income impacts on health. Dr Angel Donkin of the Institute if Health Equity on the 10th February this year opened a series of nine blogs on health equality on the Taxpayers Against Poverty website by stating "Income impacts on health directly; for instance insufficient money to heat your home or buy a healthy balanced diet. Cold homes increase rates of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, excess winter deaths and mental illness. Inadequate diets increase the risk of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Debt impacts on health indirectly through increased stress, depression and anxiety." The devil of income related mental and physical illness is in the detail.
Despite all those volumes of robust evidence governments since 1979 have allowed the corner stone of the benefit system, on which all other unemployment benefits are built, to crumble. Professor Jonathan Bradshaw wrote to The Guardian in May 2009 to show that JSA had been reducing in value since 1979; he called it benefit negligence. The single adult JSA/ISA/IS is £73.10 a week which becomes £317 a month under the Universal Credit (UC) is paid to over 4 million people in the UK. Family and disability benefits are added to that crumbling corner stone. It is so inadequate that parents need the children's benefits to survive and the disabled are forced into destitution when they fail the work capability assessment and their disability benefits are stopped. A benefit sanction is a disaster for single adults because while the £73.10 is stopped the debts pile up and later cannot be paid out of such a low income when it starts again.
Until April 2013 rent and council tax were for the unemployed were covered by 100% housing and council tax benefits. Since April 2013;
- The inadequate £73.10 has been taxed by 276 councils out of 326 in England
- It has also had to pay rent due to the cut in housing benefit by the local housing allowance, the
- bedroom tax and the benefit cap
- It has not been increased since April 2015
- Meanwhile the prices of goods and services (RPI) have increased by 4.8%. Rents and council tax have also increased
Under these circumstances £73.10 a week is incapable of providing a healthy diet as well as
other necessities. That is very serious issue for a woman who needs a healthy before conception and during the development of a child in her womb
. Poor maternal nutrition and low birth weight have, since 1972, been called he strongest predictor of poor learning ability, school performance, behavioral disorders and crime by
Professor Michael Crawford of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition.
A living unemployment benefit JSA is seriously below the minimum income standards recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Using their April 2016 research
an estimated minimum would be £110.36 a week for an adult to have a weekly budget of £44.72 for a healthy diet, water ££5.67, clothes £7.12, fuel £15.96, transport £26.89 with £10 for contingencies like the cooker or the fridge breaking down. That assumes a return to 100% housing and council tax benefit.
Increasing the equality, health and well being, productivity and happiness of a UK population, in which the richest citizens live 20 years longer than the poorest, demands a living unemployment benefit. Increasing JSA/UC by £37.26 a week would, however, be undone by housing market whose rents have taken an ever increasing proportion of the income needed for food, fuel and other necessities, due to the frozen £73.10 and cuts in housing benefit since 2013. A living unemployment benefit could be paid for by a reduction to the enormous costs of ill health in
productivity losses of £31-£33 billion per year, in additional NHS healthcare costs associated with inequality were estimated to be in excess of £5.5 billion a year, and the progressive taxation of land to curb to loss of UK income tax to overseas tax havens
Professor Danny Dorling argues in our series of ten blogs on Affordable Housing
Sadly, due to the absence of truly affordable housing policies for the past 30 years, the rents and mortgages, needed for shelter, compete for the income needed for survival, with council tax arrears, other debts, court costs and bailiffs fees. The value of the minimum wage and the living wage can also be wrecked by the cost of housing. The result is record increases in evictions, record admissions to hospital with malnutrition and unprecedented rises in UK deaths in 2015 and in deaths England's poorest infants since 2010.
Reverend Paul Nicolson is on the Advisory Council of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition. He was Awarded "Best non academic 2015" the Social Policy Association.
TAP/APPG on Poverty are hosting their Health Equality Seminar, 6-8 pm Thursday 20th July, Portcullis House, Westminster SW1A 2JR. Register here.