2006-01-04

Stats, Money & Health: Rich/Poor Divide Widens

'The Scotsman Newspaper' reveals the true extent of inequality across Scotland, in a devastating study showing the country's wealthiest suburb has a life expectancy of 87.7 years, while a boy born in the poorest area of Glasgow can expect to die at 54. A child born in Calton, in the East End of Glasgow, is three times as likely to suffer heart disease, four times as likely to be hospitalised and ten times as likely to grow up in a workless household than a child in the city's prosperous western suburbs. In contrast, Scotland's top neighbourhoods are shown to offer an outstanding quality of life, with high salaries, reasonable house prices and a life expectancy longer than the average for any country in the developed world. Using NHS data, 'The Scotsman Newspaper' has compiled an extensive deprivation index, with data for the country's 830 postcode areas, and separated the top and bottom 100 neighbourhoods to show for the first time the scale of inequality in Scotland. While previous studies have portrayed Glasgow as a national blackspot, with life expectancy the lowest in the UK at 69, 'The Scotsman Newspaper' study shows that some of the city's suburbs and surrounding areas offer a quality of life found in few other places in the world. A boy born in Bearsden, Milngavie, Lenzie, Clarkston or Kilmacolm can expect to live to over 80, according to data for 1998/2002. But a journey to the eastern side of Glasgow finds life expectancy plunging by two decades. Male life expectancy in Dalmarnock, Calton, Kinning Park and Townhead is below 60: Britain, as a country, passed this mark during the Second World War. 'The Scotsman Newspaper' has disentangled the data and concentrated on two blocks: 'Prime Scotland', which comprises the best 100 neighbourhoods, and 'Third Scotland', where life expectancy is closer to the third world. If 'Prime Scotland' were a country, it world have the longest life expectancy in the world. The top international spots are occupied by Iceland (79.0 years), Japan (78.4 years) Sweden (77.9 years), Australia and Canada (both 77.8 years). 'Third Scotland', by contrast, has an average male life expectancy of only 64.4 years -- meaning an eighth of the men in the country can expect to die before the official pension age. This life expectancy is lower than in Bosnia, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Iran or North Korea. While poverty is concentrated in the East End of Glasgow, inequality exists across Scotland. The difference in life expectancy between the best and worst postcode areas is 22 years in Edinburgh, 17 years in Paisley, 15 years in Perthshire and nine years in the Highlands. Welfare dependency is a hallmark of 'Third Scotland' -- with unemployment rates (ie, those people seeking work) dwarfed by the number living entirely on benefits without indicating a desire to work. In Calton, two in five adults claim incapacity benefit. In Hamiltonhill, 61 per cent of children are in workless households. This is true for 58 per cent in Drumchapel, where half the children are brought up by a single parent. In Bridgeton and Dennistoun, the level of drugs deaths (200 per 100_000 people) is twice that of the next highest area, Maryhill, which, in turn, is twice that of Dundee. Most ominously, life for the poorest seems to be getting worse. The average life expectancy for those in 'Third Scotland' fell by eight weeks since the last sample in 1992 -- over the same period, it rose by two years for Scotland as a whole. The study comes as The Work and Pensions Secretary Mr.John Hutton, prepares to publish welfare-reform plans. He said last night that ministers realised Glasgow had problems and that the reforms so far -- especially the 'Pathways to Work' programme -- had helped 11_000 off benefits in the past 18 months. There would be more to come with the green paper, he said.
'The proposals we will set out later this month will seek to remove the remaining barriers in the welfare system that can trap people in benefit dependency and poverty.'
But 'The Scottish National Party' economics spokesman Mr.Jim Mather, described the results of 'The Scotsman Newspaper' survey as 'a deep tragedy'. He said:
'The social justice agenda is now in its 30th year, and it is manifestly not happening in the places of Scotland which need it most. 'What's making it worse is that people may feel they are better off on benefits. 'We should not rely on, or have to wait for, London to change the welfare system -- Scotland needs full control over its economic tools, and an agenda which will not push everyone to the middle, but lift all the boats.'
Mr.Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of 'The Conservative & Unionist Party' who set up 'The Centre for Social Justice' to focus on inner-city poverty, said the figures showed 'The New Labour Party' had isolated the poorest from the economic boom in the rest of the country.
'Gordon Brown has chased the poor with money, but this just takes people to a higher level of dependency that it is difficult to break out of,' he said. 'You may as well hang a sign on some of these places, saying "abandon hope all ye who enter". 'In Easterhouse, we saw kids who had to get themselves to school and out of bed because their parents were laid out by drugs. 'This cannot be cured by money.'
The study shows an almost linear relationship between welfare dependency and hospital admissions for alcohol abuse. And while only 23 per cent smoke in 'Prime Scotland', the figure for 'Third Scotland' is 48 per cent. Income inequality is also pronounced. The average household income in 'Prime Scotland' is two-thirds higher than in 'Third Scotland'. The highest life expectancy in Scotland is in the village of Bellsquarry, near Livingston. A former working-class area, it has been steadily gentrified and the average life expectancy is now 87.7 years. A Scottish Executive spokesman said:
'Scotland's health is improving. 'However, the "Executive" recognises differences in life expectancy and mortality rates are significant and widening between our most and least affluent people. 'We want to strengthen primary care in deprived areas to address these problems.'
'A nation still divided by poverty and inequality', Fraser Nelson, The Scotsman, 2006-01-04

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