UC cut will hit areas with the worst health hardest

The Health Foundation has warned that a planned £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, due at the beginning of October, is likely to have a greater impact on those who already suffer the worst health.

The charity’s analysis finds that the average loss of income for working age families in the 10 per cent of local authorities in England with the worst health will be almost twice the loss for those in the 10 per cent of areas with the best health (£207 per year compared to £102 per year in areas with the best health).

The Health Foundation says that this risks exacerbating existing regional inequalities as areas with the worst health will experience a greater reduction in government support.

The charity says that the cut would remove vital support at a time when many are already dealing with the stress of rising debts and reduced income, and would contribute to rising levels of mental ill health. The Foundation also notes that this would run counter to the government’s commitment to levelling up health across all areas of the country.

Polling by the Health Foundation and Kantar shows that there remains strong public support for making the £20 increase – which was put in place during the pandemic – permanent (51 per cent of the UK public are in support with 22 per cent against).

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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