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Sheffielders vastly more likely to be unwell and out of work compared to residents of west Oxfordshire

A shocking new report reveals the devastating impact of inequality on the UK’s left-behind towns and cities.

Queen Street Barnsley geograph org uk 4077398

One in every 20 people in South Yorkshire say they are personally in bad health.

Alan Murray-Rust on Wikimedia Commons.

People who live in the poorest local authority areas in Britain, including all four towns and cities in South Yorkshire, are vastly more likely to live with poor health and be economically inactive.

That’s the findings of a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) which reveals the stark reality of health inequality, and inequality in general, across the UK – one of the richest countries in the world.

The report shows that one in every 20 people in South Yorkshire say they are personally in bad health, compared to around one in 33 in south-eastern areas like Hertfordshire and west and east Oxfordshire.

It also shows vast differences in the number of people in employment, with 30.4% of working age people in Sheffield being economically inactive compared to just 17.1% in west Oxfordshire.


Hallam MP Olivia Blake said the UK is "the most economically divided country in western Europe".

“Across the country we are seeing the fruits of thirteen years of Conservative rule,” said Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake, adding that the UK was “the most economically divided country in western Europe, and with among the starkest health inequalities.”

“The myth of levelling-up has long since died a death, and the inequality of funding and powers is making people unwell in Sheffield and across the north.”

The report found that one in every four people in the UK who are economically inactive live in just 50 local authority areas (out of a total of 317), highlighting the UK’s eyewatering levels of regional inequality, which is unprecedented across Europe.

IPPR researchers found that in the UK’s ‘bad health blackspots’ residents are also more likely to experience worse levels of material deprivation and child poverty, and lower levels of productivity and household income.

The UK’s poorest areas also have some of the lowest rates of life expectancy – in Barnsley, healthy life expectancy is 61.5 years for women and 57.5 for men, compared to Wokingham in the south-east where it is 71.1 years for women and 70.1 years for men.

The UK’s existing tax and benefits system is ‘regressive’, meaning that the way it has been set up causes the rich and the super-rich to get even richer, while everybody else – including the poorest people in society – have seen both their incomes and their standard of living stagnate, or even decline.

If it wanted to, the government could take a number of measures to reduce overall inequality in the UK, which would reduce health inequalities in the long-run. These include raising taxes on the rich or establishing new wealth taxes, and using the proceeds to pay every citizen a basic income.

At the moment, the government is choosing not to take any serious action to reduce inequality in the UK.

Efua Poku-Amanfo, a research fellow at the IPPR and the lead author of the report, said that reducing health inequalities was “not just morally the right thing to do, it’s the economically sensible thing to do” as well.

“Bad health blackspots, especially in the north-east and north-west of England and the south of Wales, are stifling national economic growth and holding back the wealth and health of the nation,” she said.

“Local leaders are ready and willing to take ownership of public health, collaborating with their communities to work out the best solutions. But they need the powers and funding from central government to turn things around.”

by Sam Gregory (he/him)
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