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Research on poverty and malnutrition

by
20 December 2013

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From the Revd Paul Nicolson
Sir, - Shortly after the British Medical Journal (News, 6 December) sounded the alarm about malnutrition in the UK, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published its annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion.

One of its many important comments reads: "The poverty rate for the whole population was 21 per cent measured after housing costs are deducted (AHC) and 16 per cent measured before housing costs (BHC) are deducted. This gap of five percentage points is the highest it has been for a decade, and has been growing, although slowly, since the middle of the last decade."

The steadily increasing price and rent of a home is partly to blame. The growth of the gap is being reinforced by the Government's caps and cuts, and council tax. The high retail price of meeting human needs, the rent of a decent home, and taxation in the UK are now crushing a healthy life out of the AHC incomes of her poorest citizens.

A typical example is a 60-year-old who wrote to Taxpayers Against Poverty, telling us that he had become ill and unemployed after 40 years' unbroken taxpaying employment. The £71.70-a-week unemployment benefit was paid after housing and council-tax benefit, and untaxed, until April this year. He now has to pay the bedroom tax and the council tax, which leaves him in debt and with £53.20.

Robust research undertaken by nutritionists at York University for Rowntree, and checked with users both on and off benefits, shows that the minimum income needed by a single adult for a healthy diet is £50.11 a week. He will be both cold and hungry this winter while worrying about how to pay his inevitable debts.

The BMJ published concern in January about the relation between foetal malnutrition and chronic disease in later life. Low birth weight and the UK's poverty incomes of women are linked, but the Department of Work and Pensions is in denial about the strong link between ill health and the debts and food- and fuel-poverty that are due to the Government's benefit reforms.

PAUL NICOLSON
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF

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