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New Marmot report 'lays bare unacceptable health divide'

By Agencies
December 17, 2020

Commissioned by the Health Foundation as part of its COVID-19 impact inquiry, the new landmark report, Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review by Professor Sir Michael Marmot investigates how the pandemic has affected health inequalities in the UK.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, commented: "There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic will take its toll on society for some time to come. The virus itself and the measures that have been taken to contain it, such as lockdown, have been hugely significant and felt by everyone. This report highlights the unequal impact it has had, affecting some people much more than others.

"Putting the health and welfare of the next generation at the heart of the UK’s recovery plans will be critical in the years ahead. It should concern us all that the pandemic has hit young people so hard, affecting their education, their work and income.

"The report reveals that rising unemployment and low wages resulting from the pandemic have particularly impacted on younger people. This has long-term implications for their future health and wellbeing. Unless action is taken, we risk this causing long-term damage to their health and our society.

"We know that education is critical not only for development, but also for long-term health. The pandemic has interrupted the nation’s schooling, with children from more disadvantaged backgrounds harmed more by school closures than their peers from wealthier backgrounds.

"Mitigating the damage caused by the pandemic to education, employment and income must be at the heart of the government’s plans for recovery and levelling up. For young people, this means practical help to find employment and training to access better quality jobs. As we rebuild, these measures are vital to ensure that the generation of young people who have lived through the pandemic don’t continue to feel its impact on their health throughout the rest of their lives."

The new report builds on the UCL Institute of Health Equity’s report The Marmot Review 10 Years On, published in February this year, and is the first major output from the Health Foundation’s COVID-19 impact inquiry. Led by an expert advisory panel including Professor Sir Michael Marmot, the inquiry is exploring different dimensions of inequalities and how these are likely to affect people’s health now and in the future.

  • The report highlights the impacts of the pandemic on disadvantaged children’s education and young people’s employment. Teachers in the most deprived schools are over three times more likely to report that their pupils are four months or more behind in their curriculum than those in the least deprived schools.
  • Furthermore, teachers estimate that 44 per cent of their pupils are in need of intensive catch-up support. These estimates are much higher in the most deprived schools and in schools serving the highest proportion of pupils from minority ethnic communities.
  • Many parents accessed some form of support to help with their children’s development during lockdown. However, the level of support accessed varied by family income, with high income parents' households more likely to have received online support from their early learning providers than low-income households – 31 per cent compared to 23 per cent
  • The likelihood of a worker who was furloughed during lockdown not being in work by September was particularly high for the young (19 per cent of workers age 18–24 who were furloughed in lockdown were not in work in September), for those in insecure work (22 per cent), for workers from minority ethnic communities (22 per cent); and those working in hospitality (15 per cent).

The Health Foundation’s analysis also highlights the need for policymakers to put young people’s long-term health needs at the heart of decision making, as we move through recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Build Back Fairer provides recommendations to reduce widening inequalities, level up differences in health between regions, and mitigate against risks to a new generation of young people.

Responding to the report, senior health fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research Chris Thomas said: "Once again, Sir Michael Marmot has laid bare the unacceptable health inequalities ravaging England. These were a shame on our country before Covid hit – and stripped away resilience to the pandemic in some of the country’s most vulnerable places. And it comes just days after IPPR research exposed that public health cuts have been 3.5 times higher in places that have suffered the most Covid deaths.

"For those who still need convincing, this report proves you cannot cut welfare, disregard public health, bankrupt local authorities and undo social security without brutal consequences. The logic of austerity has been further discredited by the reality of COVID-19. 

"Health inequality is neither justifiable nor inevitable. It's time to invest in healthy people and places – to help recover from Covid-19 and to safeguard against future health shocks. The alternative is to needlessly sacrifice a generation of children to poor health and worse life chances." 

Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review is available to download here

* The Health Foundation https://www.health.org.uk/

* Institute of Public Policy Research https://www.ippr.org/impact

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