Skip to main content

Poverty kills too

Shocked into action by the potential mortality from the coronavirus pandemic, governments around the world are acting to release huge sums of money into their economies. 

Today, the UK chancellor announced that he was making available over £330 bn to support businesses during the crisis.  This is by far the biggest ever peace-time intervention in the economy. 



It is right that governments should respond.  Millions of lives depend on them doing so.  But it should make us think about whether we have been getting our priorities right in the past, and whether we are now doing so.  

Poverty kills just as relentlessly as does the coronavirus.  It attacks the most vulnerable.  Yet, the government invests too little in preventing it. 

This has been particularly so over the last decade, where both child poverty and pensioner poverty have increased. 

Poverty comes in different ways. 

A report two years ago showed that the UK has the 6th highest long-term rate of excess winter mortality out of 30 European countries.  

The UK experiences, on average, 32,000 deaths in each winter that are more than mortality rates across the rest of the year.  Cold kills. 

Each year, 9,700 deaths are attributable to the avoidable circumstances of living in a cold home. 

This is a crisis.  A winter crisis.  It isn't invisible, like the coronavirus, and it does discriminate. It discriminates against the most vulnerable living in fuel poverty. 

But it doesn't merely cause premature deaths.  This also leads to poor mental health such as chronic depression and in many tragic cases, suicide.  

In the end, it affects us all because it adds to the burden on our overstretched health and care systems. 

We should all be concerned about it.  Yet, we don't give it the same kind of crisis consideration as we do to the pandemic.  

Perhaps we should. Maybe, when the pandemic is over, we should start thinking about whether we can go on merely saying that 'there is no money' tree when it comes to dealing with poverty.   The money tree seems to bear fruit when it comes to tackling a global pandemic - and so it should.  

But let's consider that fruit when we are dealing with the crisis of poverty that causes morbidity and death. 



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

A time for every purpose

All life moves. Or, more precisely, all life moves purposefully.  This is true even for trees and plants.  Movement is essential for maintaining life.  Animals migrate; plants disperse.  Some form of migration is an ingredient of all life.  For many organisms, it is a key function of reproduction.  We don't reproduce merely to create a new organism, but also to disperse the population - finding new fertile ground, or resources. Reproduction is a form of migration. Reproduction isn't merely to replicate. Reproduction produces change and diversity.  While we may have strong resemblences in families, we also have differences.  Creating a difference is how evolution works.  In this sense, nature is a continuous exploratory process, finding what works best.  Nature senses change and responds.  Some of this is immediate and physiological or behavioural; some of it is over generations.  If we look at a forest over long periods of time, we would see that it shifts. There is a movement

A weaver's tail - the harvest mouse

Living in the grass is a tiny mouse: the tiny harvest mouse, with a wonderful scientific name that sounds like the title of a Charles Dickens Novel,  Micromys minutus.   It is the only British mammal with a prehensile tail. It uses its tail to hold on to the slender grass stems, at the tops of which it builds a nest. Photo: Nick Fewing These tiny mammals (just around 5 cm long) build a spherical nest of tightly woven grass at the top of tall grasses, in which the female will give birth to about six young.  In the fields, we see cows and horses brushing away flies with their tails; often they will stand side-by-side and end-to-end, and help each other.  Two tails are better than one!  In nature, tails are put to good use.  Just as a tight-rope walker uses his pole for balance, so for some species, a tail provides balance. When running, a squirrel uses its tail as a counterbalance to help the squirrel steer and turn quickly, and the tail is used aerodynamically in flight.  But many anima