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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. 



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