Socialist Worker

Poverty under Blair

Issue No. 1676

THE REALITY of inequality in Blair's Britain was revealed in research last week from Bristol University, the biggest study of health inequalities since the 1980s. The stark truth is that in Britain today, the poorer you are, the earlier you die. The study found:

Infant mortality (deaths of babies under 12 months old) is twice as high in poor areas as in rich ones. The worst areas include Glasgow and many of the London boroughs.

Men in the top social group can expect to live nine and a half years longer than unskilled male manual workers.

The worst health areas have 4.2 times as many children living in poverty as the best areas.

GCSE failure rates are 1.5 times higher in the worst health areas compared to those with the best health records.

The report's authors warn that 'hundreds of thousands more will die young during the first few decades of the 21st century, millions will suffer unnecessary illness and disability and tens of millions will be cheated of fair life chances.' The report argues that the only way to narrow the health gap is to redistribute wealth from rich to poor. But the only redistribution Blair's Tory policies have created is from the poor to the rich.

Blair wants his rich business and City friends to keep raking in the money they make on the backs of the rest of us. This week it was revealed that Britain has the highest number of super-rich people of any country in Europe. Of the 400 wealthiest people in Europe some 86 are from Britain. The richest of them all is Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One chief who donated £1 million to New Labour in the 'cash for favours' scandal. Ecclestone is worth £2.4 billion. The queen comes second with £2 billion, while another Blair favourite, Richard Branson, is the sixth richest person in Britain. Despite all Blair's rhetoric about governing for the whole of Britain, the fact is that New Labour is governing on behalf of fat cat businessmen and City bankers at the expense of the rest of us.


Poor mum

THE GAP between the earnings of working mothers and women without children is greater in Britain than in many other industrialised countries. These are the conclusions of a new study by the London School of Economics. It found that working mothers earn on average 13 percent less than women without children do.

Women with three or more children earn up to 30 percent less than their childless counterparts. The pay gap for mothers in Britain grew wider than in the six other industrialised countries examined in the survey-Germany, Finland, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the United States.


The elderly left to die

'INVOLUNTARY euthanasia' is how Dr Adrian Treloar, a consultant at Greenwich Hospital, described the shocking state of treatment for the elderly in the NHS. New Labour health secretary Alan Milburn immediately dismissed Dr Treloar's comments and described them as an attack on health workers. But health staff are not to blame. It is the government which is vandalising the health service.

New Labour's refusal to fund the health service properly and its attempts to privatise whole swathes of the NHS through the Private Finance Initiative have created a scandalous lack of care. Under the Tories the number of NHS beds has plummeted by 40 percent. Now things are set to get worse, with PFI hospital schemes cutting beds by up to 28 percent.

Dr Treloar himself blamed the bed crisis in the NHS for lack of care for the elderly. 'There are severe pressures on beds and in order to relieve this there may be a tendency to limit care inappropriately,' he said.

Lack of government funding has meant NHS trusts are now in debt to the tune of £1 billion. Even before winter sets in, NHS trusts are cancelling operations, closing down wards and rationing 'non-urgent' treatment. New Labour touts schemes like NHS Direct, where patients ring up for advice on the phone or, as announced this week, on the internet. But these schemes do not substitute for the lack of resources and facilities.


Education crisis

Bad news...

STUDENTS FROM working class backgrounds are more likely to drop out of university than those from richer backgrounds. Studies by the Higher Education Funding Council show that colleges which take in more working class students can see up to one in three students leaving their course.

Elite universities like Cambridge have only a 1 percent dropout rate. Only 8 percent of Cambridge students come from working class homes. Yet the University of East London has 40 percent of students from working class backgrounds. It has the highest dropout rate in Britain-some 36 percent of students who started studying in 1996 left without any qualification.


...Good news

MIXED ABILITY teaching matches the academic results achieved by setting children by ability. Mixed ability teaching also leaves all children feeling more confident about themselves. That is the conclusion of a study by Judith Ireson and Susan Hallam of the prestigious Institute of Education in London. Their study is based on an analysis of 6,000 pupils aged 11 to 14. It showed that those with the best exam results at age 11 were not held back in mixed ability classes while those with poorer results tended to do better.


Homeless horror

HOMELESSNESS in Scotland is at an all time high, according to a new report by the charity Shelter. The report found homelessness had increased more in the first two years of a Labour government than it did throughout the entire five years of the 1992-7 Tory government.

Director of Shelter Scotland Liz Nicholson said, 'This is an appalling indictment of housing policy and the first two years of the Labour government.' The report found that homelessness had risen by 11 percent since 1997. The total number of homeless people in Scotland now stands at 81,000.


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News
Sat 11 Dec 1999, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1676
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