Tag Archives: malnourishment

While Sunak offers pointless meal vouchers they can’t use, child malnutrition doubles in six months

The offers in Rishi Sunak’s summer statement were intended to distract you from this.

Of course child malnourishment has doubled in the last six months, because more children are in poverty – and were, even before the Covid-19 crisis hit the UK.

The number of households with hungry children has doubled during lockdown because children reliant on school breakfast clubs and lunches have been deprived of them.

And their parents – already too poor to afford to feed their children in normal circumstances – have been left to support their families on a fraction of their normal pay (if they’re lucky) or on Universal Credit.

But if they’re claiming UC, they’ve had to wait at least five weeks for their first payment – and possibly as long as 11 weeks.

They won’t be able to benefit from the Chancellor’s “meal deal” vouchers because their parents/guardians can’t afford half the price of eating out – which is necessary before the vouchers can be used.

And let’s remember that Boris Johnson wanted to end free school meals for deprived children during the summer holidays, only relenting after a high-profile footballer’s campaign won widespread public support.

The detail that makes this news horrifying, rather than merely appalling, is the fact that fewer than two-thirds of all hospital trusts have provided information.

It means the number of malnourished children in the UK may in fact have tripled – or worse.

What if any – or many – of them die?

Tory voters: did you really want that on your conscience when you voted your beloved Boris Johnson such a huge victory last year?

Almost 2,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition in the first six months of the year – double the number over the same period last year – prompting fresh concern that families are struggling to afford to feed themselves and that the pandemic has intensified the problem.

Freedom of information responses from almost 50 trusts in England, representing 150 hospitals, show that more than 11,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition since 2015.

Almost 1,000 under-16s with malnutrition were admitted as inpatients to Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust alone, suggesting the affluent city has wide disparities in wealth.

Collectively the figures reveal 11,515 cases of hospital admissions of under-16s due to malnourishment. Fewer than two-thirds of all trusts responded, suggesting the real total figure is much higher.

Source: Cases of child malnutrition in England double in last six months | Society | The Guardian

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Britain’s starvation crisis won’t bother our new millionaires at all

Britain's shame: The front page of yesterday's Daily Mirror.

Britain’s shame: The front page of yesterday’s Daily Mirror.

So the United Kingdom now houses more millionaires than ever before – but at the huge cost of forcing hundreds of thousands of people to seek help from food banks or starve.

This is David Cameron’s gamble: That enough people will profit from the misery of the huge underclass he has created to vote him back into office in 2015, to continue his attack on anybody who takes home less than £100,000 pay per year.

Are you really that selfish?

Do you think this is any way for a civilised, First-World society to order itself?

No – it’s more like the description of the Third World that became prevalent towards the end of the 1960s: A country with low economic development, low life expectancy, high rates of poverty, and rampant disease. They are also countries where a wealthy ruling class is free to exploit the population at large who, without money or force of arms, are powerless to stop them.

Let’s see now… The UK definitely has low economic development. Neoliberal governments since 1979 have decimated our industrial base and the so-called recovery we are currently enjoying has yet to show any worthwhile results, despite the dubious rises in employment and wages that are making headlines this week.

Low life expectancy? Yes, we have that. People in lower-class residential areas are expected to live only a few years into their retirement, if they make it that far, while those in rich areas may continue into their late eighties. Sharp readers will recognise that, although we all pay the same amount into the state pension, the rich get more from it as they live long enough to receive larger amounts.

High rates of poverty? According to the Trussell Trust, the number of food parcels it handed out per year tripled from 346,992 in 2012 to 913,138 last year, with 330,205 going to children. Another 182,000 were provided by 45 independent food banks. The government says poverty is falling but bases its figures on a proportion of the median wage, which has been dropping for the last six years. This means government claims that worker wages are rising must also be lies.

Rampant disease? Perhaps we should not go as far as to suggest this is happening – but the British Isles have witnessed the return of diseases long-thought banished from these shores, like Rickets and Scarlet Fever, along with an increase in Tuberculosis. These are all poverty-related, as they are caused by malnourishment. You can thank your Tory government for forcing so many people out of work and diverting so much NHS funding into privatisation.

As for a wealthy working class exploiting the population – the evidence is all around us.

Look at the reasons people are being driven to food banks, according to the Daily Mirror article from which I quoted the food bank figures: “Benefits cuts and delays, the rising cost of living and pay freezes are forcing more and more people into food banks, experts have long warned.” All of these are the result of Tory government policy.

The government is, of course, unrepentant. I had the misfortune to see Treasury minister David Gauke – who found infamy when he signed off on huge “sweetheart deals” letting multinational firms off paying billions of pounds of income tax they owed us – saying he was not ashamed of the huge food bank uptake. He said they were doing a valuable job and he was glad that the government was signposting people to them. Nobody seemed to want to ask him: In the country with the world’s sixth-largest economy, why are food banks needed at all?

Of course, I’m not likely to persuade anyone to change their political allegiance over this. You all know where I stand and, besides, this blog is simply not big enough to make a difference.

So I’ll leave you with the words of someone who is far more popular: Eddie Izzard, writing in (again) the Mirror:

“A million food parcels. How did our Britain get to be so hungry? Our country, where even after the Second World War, we still had the ambition to feed our poorest people and build a better country.

“This government said it wanted to reform the British welfare system. Instead, it has broken it. The proof is here in the desperate families who have had to turn to their GP, not for medicine, but for vouchers to be able to eat.

“Instead of supporting the most vulnerable people in Britain during the recession this government has hit them with a wave of cruel cuts and punishments – sanctions, Bedroom Tax, welfare cuts.

“The zero hours economy it champions is not enough to put food on tables. It’s done nothing to tackle food and fuel costs.

“No wonder that today, 600 faith leaders, dozens of charities and 40 bishops are telling David Cameron he is failing the country’s poorest people.”

Perhaps you are not affected, like all those new millionaires on whom the Tories are relying. Do you think that makes it all right for this to be happening here?

You can use your vote to share your opinion.

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The great wage con is keeping you poor

minimum-wage-poverty

Is anyone else sick of employers bleating that the minimum wage is hindering their business?

They must think we’re all stupid.

A few of them were on the BBC’s Any Answers on Saturday, saying the minimum wage keeps pay down, and that people can’t afford to go to work – especially if they live in London – because their housing costs are paid by benefits. This is nonsense.

The minimum wage is exactly what it claims to be – a minimum. And if people aren’t getting up to work for it because benefits give them more, we can see that it is not enough.

But let’s take this further: We all know that Landlord Subsidy is being restricted – especially in London, where landlords charge more than in the rest of the country. This means that people on low incomes in rented homes will be unable to pay the bills and will be forced to move somewhere cheaper (if they can find it), as intended by our extreme right-wing government.

Where are all these minimum-wage employers going to find their minimum-wage workers then?

Even that isn’t the limit of it, though. We know from such sources as the summer’s excellent Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 that employers have found ways around the minimum wage.

  • They have taken people on as self-employed contractors who are paid a flat rate for a day’s work – no matter how long that work takes – and being self-employed, these people pay their own taxes and National Insurance, and get no time off for holidays or if they are ill.
  • They have taken on workers on part-time contracts, meaning reduced or non-existent holiday and sick pay entitlements – and then boosted up their hours to full-time levels with fake ‘overtime’ offers.
  • They have employed workers on zero-hours contracts, meaning they can demand an employee’s presence at any time and make them work for as long – or short – a period as required. Again, there are no tax administration obligations, NI, sickness or holiday benefits.

The result is very nice for a government of liars such as the current Westminster administration, because it seems they have managed to increase employment (in fact the last figures showed unemployment is greater than at the end of the Labour administration in 2010, but by such a small amount that it’s not worth mentioning).

Production, on the other hand, has remained flat. If more people are in work, it should have increased.

That is how we know we are looking at a con.

If more people are in work but production hasn’t gone up, we must question the incentive for this increased employment. It has already been mentioned: The lack of holiday and sick pay entitlement, National Insurance and tax admin obligations. The larger the employer, the larger the saving – but this doesn’t mean small firms aren’t feeling the benefit.

The minimum wage worker’s income is topped up by benefits – but the government is cutting these back. Landlord Subsidy in London won’t be enough for people on the kind of contracts described here to stay in their homes, and this means a consequent job loss if they have to move out of the area.

Tax credits are being removed; child benefit restricted. Universal Credit (if it ever works) will operate in real-time, adjusting benefits to ensure that low-paid workers remain in an income trap for as long as their wages remain below a certain level.

Employers reap the benefits. But even they are being conned, because this can’t last forever.

Imagine a Britain without in-work benefits but where the living wage has not been introduced nationwide (this will be a reality in a few years, under a Coalition or Conservative government). Workers on the self-employed, part-time or zero-hours contracts described here will not earn enough to survive.

Private debt will increase exponentially, leading to increased mental illness as the stress of trying to cope takes its toll on the workforce. Physical illness will increase as people cut back on heating in their homes and food in their fridges and larders. Result: malnourishment and disease.

What happens then? It’s hard to say. It may be that employers will take on increasing numbers of cheap foreign workers – but there is already resentment at the influx of immigrants from the European Union and this could lead to civil unrest.

It seems likely that the largest firms will leave these shores. If we compare them to huge parasites – and we can – then the host will have been drained almost dry and it will be time to move on and find another to treat the same way. These are the companies who have reaped huge rewards from tax avoidance, aided by the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms – KPMG, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young – who have been writing – into British law – ways for them to get out of paying their share.

The smaller employers might keep going for a while or collapse; it depends how much their bosses save up for the inevitable crash. Deficit financing of their business will support them for a while but, if they don’t have any ideas, they’ll go under.

All because a few very greedy people just won’t pay a reasonable amount for a hard day’s work.

They get on the media, telling us they can’t afford higher wages. In that case, why are they even in business? If they need a workforce of a certain size, but cannot pay a living wage, then they simply should not bother. All they are doing, in the long run, is contributing to a monumental confidence trick that will cause immense harm to the economy and the nation’s health.

Of course, the UK did not always have in-work benefits. People used to be paid enough to make ends meet. We should be asking why that changed and who benefits. A return to that situation would benefit the country enormously – but it isn’t going to happen on the minimum wage, and it isn’t going to happen on zero-hours contracts.

It’s time to name these firms and ask bosses who employ on these terms why those contracts are necessary and why they feel justified in the damage they are causing.

And while we’re at it, it’s time to ask our MPs why they tolerate it, too.

Do you want your children to starve?

Well? Do you want your kids to starve?

The Guardian has reported that budget cuts are forcing the closure of breakfast clubs in primary schools across the country – despite increased demand. The research, by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, shows 40 per cent of councils are cutting back.

This means vulnerable children will be going to school hungry and will therefore be unable to concentrate in lessons.

Think about the consequences of this. If they can’t concentrate because of hunger, they’re likely to misbehave – and this could set a precedent for the rest of their lives. Malnourishment leads to misbehaviour, leading to what? Crime, perhaps?

At the very least, the inability to concentrate means their grades will drop and their academic careers will fail – in some cases, before they have had a chance to get going.

Who knows how many will develop health problems associated with malnutrition?

This will happen, not because they are “bad kids” or because they are “academically sub-normal”, but because they come from poor families. The rich, meanwhile, will streak ahead in the race for The Good Life.

The Guardian reports that Essex County Council said it had 219 breakfast clubs in schools last year, but 169 this year. In Surrey, 2,870 children were being given breakfast last year but only 1,200 in 2012. That’s creating 1,670 potential problem children.

All this is happening in the country with the seventh largest economy in the world.

A Department for Education spokesman acknowledged the importance of the service, but said it was up to schools how they spent the funds they were given. The “pupil premium”, aimed at the most disadvantaged children, would be doubled, the DFE said, but not until 2014-15 – in time to buy your votes at the 2015 election, perhaps?

Until then, do you really want your kids to starve?

The benefits system is failing thousands of people every week, forcing more and more of them to seek help from Britain’s growing number of food banks. “Breadline Britain”, under the Tory-led Coalition, is now a literal expression. Previously it was just metaphorical.

The Trussell Trust, which runs the UK’s biggest food bank, in Coventry, is opening new food banks at the rate of three per week.

Almost half the people who go to food banks are there because of benefit changes. the Department for Work and Pensions does not work fast enough to arrange benefits for when claimants need them, leaving poor people in crisis for weeks, or months, at a time. Then the debts start racking up.

Sanctions, imposed as temporary punishments by the new benefits regime, are also adding to the queue at the food banks. Since 2010, the number of people getting their Jobseeker’s Allowance suspended has spiked, and we all know that the disability tests introduced for Employment and Support Allowance (and soon to come in for Disability Living Allowance) are causing hardship and – in fact – death for Britain’s most vulnerable people.

Sanction or disallowance of benefits happened to 167,000 people in the three months up to February 2012.

What do people do for money when the State fails them and they can’t get work? They fall into the debt trap.

High-interest, doorstep lending to poor people is Britain’s latest – perhaps only – boom industry. In other words, the government’s sick benefits regime is forcing the poor into debt to organisations that will take away everything they have left, in order to make up payments on a loan whose interest rate they probably made up on the spot.

And when they’ve taken everything, what do you do then?

Do you really want your kids to starve?