Warm Home Discount and Societal Inequality
By Ellen Nicholson
At the weekend Ed Davey did a fantastic job of taking down the Conservatives over their "cruel" cuts to Universal Credit when speaking with Trevor Phillips on Sky.
As a former Secretary of State for Energy, he speaks with some authority on rising fuel prices and how to help the poorest through that.
He called for the Warm Homes Discount, currently worth £140 to those on certain benefits or low incomes to be doubled or tripled and for eligibility to be extended. He also highlighted how he had continued the insulation programmes in place when he took over, but the Conservatives had failed to keep that work going.
Today, I've listened to Professor Michael Marmot emphasise that the cut to the £20 universal credit uplift will push another 300,000 into poverty, a change pushed through between Wednesday and Thursday last week despite widespread calls to keep the uplift.
Earlier this year the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a speech that we don't know the reason for the inequality statistics that we see across the UK, this is patently untrue and misleading - the data and statistics are clear and have been evidenced based for years, but Government is choosing not to listen.
Johnson speech also sends echoes of an earlier speech of his from 2013 when as London Mayor he suggested that economic inequality is useful to encourages people to work harder. Boris Johnson's IQ comments met with outrage | Boris Johnson | The Guardian
Whether this is wilful ignorance or Johnson's Government are following a different, as yet unknown, agenda remains unclear.
So, let's be honest about the scale of things. In 2010 The Marmot Review: Fair Society, Healthy Lives was published. In 2020, 'The Marmot Review 10 years on', showed a bleak picture with growing evidence that health inequalities are widening, and life expectancy is stalling in some regions of the Country.
Health inequalities such as deprivation, low income and poor housing have always meant poorer health, reduced quality of life and early death for many people. The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly exposed how these existing inequalities - and the interconnections between them such as race, gender or geography, are associated with an increased risk of becoming ill with a disease such as COVID-19 (Coronavirus (COVID-19) Related Deaths by Ethnic Group, England and Wales: 2 March 2020 to 15 May 2020; Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19).
In December 2020, Build Back Fairer: The Covid-19 Marmot Review showed that inequalities in social and economic conditions before the pandemic contributed to the high and unequal death toll from Covid-19 and that reducing health ineqaulities, including those exacerbated by the pandemic requires long-term policies with equity at their heart.
What next ...?
Marmot in 2020, outlined that the government had opportunity to show leadership: that the evidence is clear, and the solutions are there - what is needed is the will to act.
Marmot outlined a 'levelling up' agenda that needs to focus not just on enterprise and productivity-increasing infrastructure, such as bridges, transport and technology, but also on social protection particularly in areas hurting the most. Marmot made practical suggestions for policies in five areas to tackle the 'wider determinants' of health, from improving the availability of children's centres, to reducing child and in-work poverty.
Instead after over a decade in power, with a 'fluffy and nebulous' agenda, the Conservatives have used the words 'levelling up' in speeches high on sound bites and low on policy - failed the listen to voices calling on them to keep the universal credit uplift or insulate homes,; it seems that the Conservatives are neither competent nor able to tackle one of the gravest crises facing the nation.
Change is needed both across society and politically.