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Life chances of the poorest members of society

04 September 2015


From the Revd Paul Nicolson

Sir, — On 10 September, a committee of MPs will start to address amendments to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. It sets out to rename the Child Poverty Act 2015 the Life Chances Act 2015. That is being proposed when life chances of our poorest fellow-citizens are at a very low ebb.

Professor Göran Therborn, of Cambridge University, wrote in 2013: “Those living in Chelsea-Kensington have a life expectancy 17 years longer than people living in Tottenham Green. These chasms of life prospects are not historical legacies. On the contrary, they are ongoing creations: between 1999 and 2008 the gap in life expectancy between London boroughs widened by almost four years.”

Professor Ted Shrecker, from Durham University, reports this year: “Within the small local authority of Stockton-on-Tees, the difference in male life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas is 17 years.” Life chances are diminished before birth by poor maternal nutrition, leading to low birthweights and an increased risk of an unhealthy life. The Churches, with their love for everyone, but putting our poorest fellow-citizens first, cannot allow governments to continue this profound offence against our values.

Taxpayers Against Poverty has proposed amendments to the Bill to all parties which will require governments to introduce policies aiming to increase the average life expectancy of the poorest UK citizens up to the average of the wealthy, and to report progress annually to Parliament. The most important of those policies are: first, the provision of the minimum incomes needed for healthy living to the unemployed and the low paid, after tax and housing costs; second, the provision of affordable housing.

That will require the rents of tenants to be linked to their incomes, shifting taxation away from incomes and on to land value, and a halt to the speculation in British land by the national and international wealthy individuals and corporations.


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