THE POOR DIE SOONER

13 June 2013

This follows my post the other day on the Public health England (PHE) study of premature death in England.

The Office for national statistics (ONS) publishes life expectancy data for the UK and you can read them in the excel file at Trends in life expectancy by National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC ),1982-2006. The tables there show that men and women from different socioeconomic classes have different average life expectancies at birth and at age sixty five.

The evidence is clear. Now what? Well, the PHE and ONS data raise questions about how we tackle inequalities in health and income and whether we look afresh at age-related support (such as the state pension) which in current form benefits richer, longer-living pensioners more those who are poorer and die sooner. Labour has made a tentative start on this latter politically problematic issue.


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We’re all in this together, the government says. It’s tough but we’re all suffering. Hmm.

Maybe. But not equally, of course.

This report
(September 2011) by the insurance company Aviva says, among many interesting things, that around a quarter of people in Britain over fifty five are living on about £9000 a year. Out of that comes food, for many rent or mortgage, energy and water bills, council tax …

Extrapolated to Cornwall that’s about 45 000 people here.

Fair funding anyone?


In 1980 the Thatcher government broke the link between the state retirement pension and earnings and since then the pension has been uprated by the rate of inflation. Overall earnings generally run ahead of inflation and, although the Labour government has redistributed millions of pounds to targeted pensioners, the state pension is now worth less than if it had remained linked to earnings.

How much less?

A parliamentary answer says about £43 a week less.

The average state pension is now £97 and week and had it remained linked to earnings would be £140 a week. The current pension is 44 percent less than it would have been. The details are at Hansard for 16 June 2008 column 742W.

Cornwall has a disproportionate number of pensioners many of whom – but not all of course – have only or are primarily dependent upon a state pension.

Labour aims to restore the link in the next parliament and by 2012 if possible. I am unsure whether the Conservatives, the current favourites to form the next government, have signed up to this. It would be a handbrake turn for them.

Nor do I know why Labour in Cornwall isn’t shouting all this from the rooftops.