Marmot Review: Ten years on

Posted by Imran Hussain / Tuesday 25 February 2020 / Early intervention Government spending Inequality
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Following a decade of government cuts to lifeline services like Sure Start, and benefits that families rely on, this report delivers a devastating judgement on the state of the nation’s health. But it also contains an essential truth:  That investing in the NHS - as urgent and necessary as that is - is not the same thing as investing in the nation’s health.

Put bluntly, however much you fund the NHS, you cannot take £34bn out of social security support and expect there to be no health consequences.

A decade on from his first report, Professor Sir Michael Marmot finds there’s been ‘a slowdown in life expectancy of a duration not witnessed in England for 120 years’.  A remarkable finding.

While supporters of austerity may call for a ‘not proven’ verdict, the report swots this away pointing out that inequalities are widening in England while the state is taking more and more from struggling families and communities.

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This is even more worrying given we’re still seeing the continuing effects of benefit cuts on child poverty. The Resolution Foundation projects that child poverty will hit 34%, the highest level since records began in 1961.

We know poverty has life-long health consequences for children – including on mental health, such as depression and anxiety. Higher poverty levels also mean greater pressure on the NHS and other public services.

Every day, Action for Children staff tell us child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember with parents coming to us desperate for help to keep their families warm and healthy.

Giving every child the best start in life means providing lifeline services such as children’s centres to help parents and boost child development. Yet, again, Marmot finds investment in these vital services has gone backwards in the past decade. Whereas Iceland spends 1.8% of its GDP on supporting the early years, the UK spends an anaemic 0.8%.

The public sees it, too. Last year, concern about poverty was higher than it was for housing, the economy or immigration.  And children, parents and grandparent are also worried – YouGov polling Action for Children published last year showed all three generations felt childhoods today are getting worse.

Turning this around will require ambitious policies to end child poverty, invest in early years services and tackle high housing costs.

To choose is to govern. Marmot has laid out what happens when you make the wrong choices.