Scotland’s health and wealth challenges laid bare


A new report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has highlighted a bleak picture for youth unemployment and health across Scotland.

Health-pillsThe report, the JRF’s sixth study of poverty and social exclusion in Scotland and based on research by the New Policy Institute, found that, since 2008, the number of under-25s who are unemployed has almost doubled to 90,000.

Among those without dependent children, since 2008, there has been an increase in the number living in low-income, working families from 125,000 to 150,000, whilst the number of people working part-time, who want a full-time job, has risen from 70,000 in 2008 to 120,000 in 2012.

More starkly still, the report points to a worrying growth in health inequalities with a boy born in the poorest tenth of areas in Scotland expected to live up to 14 years less than one born in the least deprived tenth. For girls, the difference is eight years.

The report also found:

• Rates of mortality for heart disease (100 per 100,000 people aged under 75) are twice as high in deprived areas as the Scottish average;

• Cancer mortality rates in the poorest areas (200 per 100,000) are 50% higher than average, and have not fallen in the last decade, while the average has fallen by one-sixth.

Responding to the report, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon pinned the blame for the difficult findings squarely at the feet of Whitehall, arguing many people across Scotland were suffering as a “direct result” of UK government benefit cuts:

Citizen’s Advice Bureaux across the country are currently dealing with nearly 800 new issues for every working day. And the latest extremely worrying analysis about the families affected by benefits illustrates exactly that point.”

Report author Tom MacInnes, however, raised his fears problems as fundamental as poverty and health inequalities were being eclipsed by the debate over independence.

Reminding the Scottish government of the tools it has to tackle such challenges, he said:

“With the political debate dominated by the referendum on independence, it’s important to point out that the issues that are central to tackling poverty, such as health, childcare, schools and housing fall within current legislative powers of the Scottish Government.

“The problems highlighted in this report cannot wait; action can and should be taken now.”

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