How Domestic Budget Cuts Will Affect You: Welfare
The domestic spending cuts — which are in marked contrast to the increased spending on foreign aid, EU membership and the war in Afghanistan — will directly reduce the quality of welfare services provided to the British people and place additional strain on the NHS.
A report in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, authored by a combined research team under the leadership of University of Oxford lecturer Dr David Stuckler, warned that “ordinary people may be paying the ultimate price for budget cuts.”
According to their study, analysis of European data showed that a £70 reduction in welfare spending per person is associated with a 2.8 percent rise in alcohol-related deaths and 1.2 percent rise in deaths from heart disease.
The study was released in the wake of a ConDem announcement that there would be reductions in tax credits for families, housing benefit and maternity grants.
The new study looked at the effects of welfare funding on health and analysed government spending in 15 European countries, including the UK, from 1980 to 2005.
The researchers found without exception that when social spending — including support for families and the unemployed — was high, death rates fell, but when they were low, rates rose substantially.
“For every £70 drop in spending per person, there is a 1.19 percent rise in overall deaths,” the report said, adding that the biggest effect was seen in illnesses linked to social circumstances, such as heart disease.
This is specific to social welfare spending and completely independent of healthcare spending.
The analysis also showed that reducing other forms of government spending, such as on the military or prisons, had no such negative impact on the public's health.
Dr Stuckler said in the report that although governments may feel they are protecting population health by safeguarding the healthcare budgets, welfare spending may actually be more important.
He also warned that the added burden of poor health linked to welfare cuts could place more strain on the NHS.
"So far the discussions around budget cuts have largely focussed on economics,” Dr Stuckler said.
"But social circumstances are crucial to people's health and our study shows there could be quite significant harms.
"If we want to promote a sustainable recovery in Britain, we must first ensure that we have taken care of people's most basic health needs."
Once again, the British people are put last.