New Marmot Review urges government to 'build back fairer' and scrap the benefit cap and two-child policy, taper benefits to avoid cliff edges and end the five-week wait for universal credit
The decade of austerity and increasing impoverishment of many households prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting the impacts of containment measures, according to the Institute of Health Equity (IHE)
In an earlier review commissioned by the IHE and led by Michael Marmot - Health Equity in England: The Marmot review 10 years on - that was published in February 2020, the IHE had highlighted widening inequalities in the standard of living and income in England prior to the pandemic, and set out recommendations to ensure a healthy standard of living for all.
However, in its latest report looking at how COVID-19 has impacted on those inequalities - Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review - the IHE argues that, while the containment measures brought in as a result of the pandemic have had significant negative economic impacts for much of the population, the level of impact has varied considerably between households.
In particular, it highlights that -
- young people and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups have been most affected by decreases in income;
- poverty is increasing for children, young people and adults of working age;
- increases in benefit payments have protected the lowest income quintile (the poorest) from the effect of decreases in wages, but have not benefited the second quintile to the same extent; and
- the two-child limit and the benefit cap are harming families and pushing people into greater poverty.
As a result, urging the government to learn the lessons of the pandemic and prioritise greater equity, the IHE puts forward a series of short, medium and long-term recommendations -
- increase the scope of the furlough scheme to cover 100 per cent of low-income workers;
- eradicate the benefit cap and lift the two-child limit;
- provide tapering levels of benefits to avoid cliff edges;
- end the five-week wait for universal credit and provide cash grants for low-income households; and
- give sufficient government support to food aid providers and charities.
- make permanent the £1,000-a-year increase in the standard allowance of universal credit;
- ensure that all workers receive at least the national living wage as a step towards achieving the long-term goal of preventing in-work poverty;
- eradicate food poverty permanently and remove reliance on food charity; and
- remove sanctions and reduce conditionalities in benefit payments.
- establish a national goal so that everyone in full-time work receives a wage that prevents poverty and enables them to live a healthy life without relying on benefits;
- make the social safety net sufficient for people not in full-time work to receive a minimum income for healthy living;
- put health equity and wellbeing at the heart of local, regional and national economic planning and strategy;
- adopt inclusive growth and social value approaches nationally and locally to value health and wellbeing as well as, or more than, economic efficiency; and
- review the taxation and benefits systems to ensure they achieve greater equity and are not regressive.
For more information, see Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review from instituteofhealthequity.org