Inequalities expert claims welfare reforms ‘will damage children’

Changes to the tax and benefits system brought in by the UK Government will “damage our children”, a health inequalities expert has told MSPs.

Analysis of the changes, which include wide-ranging reforms to welfare, mean that the worst off families are experiencing the greatest decline in percentage income, Holyrood’s Health Committee heard.

The committee was taking evidence from Professor Michael Marmot, from the University College London Institute of Health Equity, and Sir Harry Burns, professor of global public health at the University of Strathclyde, as part of its inquiry into early years health inequalities.

Commenting on the Government’s reforms, Prof Marmot said: “It’s a choice that has been made that the worst off should suffer more in terms of percent decline. That is a political choice.

“I have been very careful never to make party political comments in public. I analyse the data, I analyse the evidence.

“If the Chancellor says I am very happy with that choice, absolutely fine, but I feel the responsibility to say that will damage our children.”

He added: “When I heard the Prime Minister say over the floods, money is no object, I thought why wouldn’t he say that about child poverty?

“Floods are terrible – but so is child poverty. Child poverty is like a flood, it’s like a natural disaster.

“We could take Government action to reduce it – and I think, arguing from a health point of view, we should.”

Prof Marmot called for health equity to be put at the heart of all government decisions.

“The filter I would run over all policy is the impact on health equity,” he said.

“If something makes child poverty worse, I wouldn’t do it.”