UK government policies will 'damage our children'


Changes to the tax and benefits system brought in by the UK Government will "damage our children", a health inequalities expert told the Health Committee on 13 May 2014.

The committee was taking evidence from Professor Michael Marmot, from the University College London Institute of Health Equity, and Sir Harry Burns, professor of global public health at the University of Strathclyde, as part of its inquiry into early years health inequalities.

Analysis of the changes, which include wide-ranging reforms to welfare, meant that the worst off families are experiencing the greatest decline in percentage income, according to Prof Marmot.

Commenting on the Government's reforms, the academic said: "It's a choice that has been made that the worst off should suffer more in terms of percent decline.

"That is a political choice.

"I have been very careful never to make party political comments in public. I analyse the data, I analyse the evidence.

"If the Chancellor says I am very happy with that choice, absolutely fine, but I feel the responsibility to say that will damage our children."

He was responding to a question from SNP MSP Richard Lyle who highlighted the impact of welfare reforms and asked about the impact of policies on health inequality.

Prof Marmot added: "When I heard the Prime Minister say over the floods, money is no object, I thought why wouldn't he say that about child poverty?

"Floods are terrible - but so is child poverty. Child poverty is like a flood, it's like a natural disaster.

"We could take Government action to reduce it - and I think, arguing from a health point of view, we should."

The academic called for health equity to be put at the heart of all government decisions.

Sir Harry Burns agreed: "Across the whole of society we are all losing out because the talent and ability of young children is not being given the opportunity to flourish, we should all be concerned".

Sir Harry was the chief medical officer from 2005-2014 and said in 2012 that health inequality was the biggest issue facing Scotland.

He said: We do not show children enough care and empathy and its high time we did."

Sir Harry quoted the Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle from Los Angeles who helped gang members in Los Angles:

"Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it".

Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said he agreed with much that had been said, but said in reference to the comments about the chancellor the comments had "skirted the utopian ceiling".

The second evidence session on early years health inequalities can be viewed below:

Health Committee 2

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.