9. Aug, 2017


Professor Marmot finds it difficult to link the increases in mortality to changes in government policy (North-south divide’s toll on young adults, 8 August). It might be easier to link those increases to governments’ negligence. They have allowed the single adult jobseeker’s allowance to rot on the vine, from 1979 when it was 21% of average earnings, to 2008 when it had fallen to 10.5% of average earnings. Increases were frozen at 1% in 2011; since 2013, during the rollout of universal credit, it has remained unchanged at £73.10 a week, or £57.90 a week for the under-25s. Then it can be stopped for several months by a zero-hours contract or a benefit sanction. Since 2013 it has had to pay rent and council tax.

It is governmental negligence when the poorest young citizens do not have enough money to heat a home or buy a healthy balanced diet. Universities report time and time again that cold homes increase rates of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, excess winter deaths and mental illness. Inadequate diets increase the risk of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Debt with insufficient income impacts on health indirectly through increased stress, depression and anxiety, and suboptimal coping behaviours – such as increased rates of smoking and drinking.

After the crash in 2008, the Queen asked: “Why did no one see it coming?” Ten years later, she might well ask the same question about the rise of early deaths among young people.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty


Letters: Guardian readers respond to cuts to mental health and youth services, maternity ward closures, and benefits changes