New data show the price of inequality
Figures released today by the Marmot review illuminate the impact of inequality on both ends of people’s lives. There is a ten year difference in life expectancy between the poorest and richest local authorities – dwarfing the impact of cardiovascular disease, which reduces the average life span by 3.6 years. The gap within some boroughs is even more frightening – the difference in male life expectancy between the rich and poor parts of Westminster is 17 years, in Newcastle there is an equivalent gap for women of 11 years.
Inequalities in disability free life expectancy are even wider; there is a 10 year gap between men in the richest and poorest parts of half the local authorities in England. In Wirral the gap is 20 years for men and 17 for women.
Other data focus on children’s development. 44 per cent of children in their first year at school are considered by their teachers not to have a good level of development. In Haringey this applies to 58 per cent of children; in Solihull and Richmond on Thames, on the other hand, 69 per cent of children do have a good level.
In Redcar, 14 per cent of 16 – 19 year olds are not in employment, education or training; in Rutland, just three per cent.
Last year’s Marmot Review report was a major advance in our understanding of how inequality damages health and these figures were released on the first anniversary. The Marmot review team responded to the government’s decision to give local authorities responsibility for public health by commissioning the London Health Observatory to produce charts for every County and Unitary council in England.
The Marmot report’s main policy recommendations were:
- Giving every child the best start in life;
- Enabling all children, young people and adults to maximize their capabilities and have control over their lives – especially through education;
- Creating fair employment and good work for all;
- Ensuring a healthy standard of living for all – through a standard for a minimum income for healthy living (MIHL);
- Creating and developing sustainable places and communities;
- Strengthening the role and impact of ill-health prevention.
The emphasis on the early years was shared by Frank Field’s report on child poverty – enthusiastically welcomed by the government. But government policies and cuts are all tending in the opposite direction: the closure of Sure Start centres, the abolition of Educational Maintenance Allowances, the withdrawal of the Health in Pregnancy Grant and the restriction of Sure Start Maternity Grants, to name just a few. Last year, research for the TUC and by the IFS showed that these and other policies will inevitably lead to more inequality and child poverty. Today’s figures remind us just what that will mean across people’s lives.