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
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.
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF