Welfare reforms, food banks, malnutrition and the return of Victorian diseases are not coincidental, Mr Cameron

The coalition will leave more debt than all Labour governments since 1900. The current government is now responsible for £517 billion of the trillion-plus-pound UK public debt, compared to £472 billion accrued during the 33 years Labour led the country since the turn of the twentieth century.

And the figures look even worse when you adjust for inflation. When you do that, the Coalition’s share jumps to nearly half of the total debt.

But the Coalition don’t meet any public needs, they simply serve the wants of a powerful, wealthy elite. Labour invested in public services, the Tories have bled them dry. So, what have they done with the money? Because the public have seen only austerity cuts. And the most vulnerable citizens bear the brunt of the cuts.

Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy, Ben Phillips, said: “Britain is becoming a deeply divided nation, with a wealthy elite who are seeing their incomes spiral up, while millions of families are struggling to make ends meet.”

“It’s deeply worrying that these extreme levels of wealth inequality exist in Britain today, where just a handful of people have more money than millions struggling to survive on the breadline.”

Diseases associated with malnutrition, which were very common in the Victorian era in the UK, became rare with the advent of our welfare state and universal healthcare, but they are now making a reappearance because of the rise of numbers of people living in absolute poverty.

NHS statistics indicate that the number of cases of gout and scarlet fever have almost doubled within five years, with a rise in other illnesses such as scurvy, cholera, whooping cough and general malnutrition. People are more susceptible to infectious illness if they are under-nourished.

In 2013/14, more than 86,000 hospital admissions involved patients who were diagnosed with gout – an increase of 78 per cent in five years, and of 16 per cent on the year before. Causes of gout include a lack of vitamin C in the diet of people who are susceptible.

The figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show a 71 per cent increase in hospital admissions among patients suffering from malnutrition – from 3,900 admissions in 2009-10 to 6,690 admissions in 2013-14.

Cases of scarlet fever admitted to hospital doubled, from 403 to 845, while the number of hospital patients found to be suffering from scurvy also rose, with 72 cases in 2009/10 rising to 94 cases last year.

The figures also show a steep rise in cases diagnosed with cholera, a water-borne disease which was extremely prevalent in the 19th century, causing nearly 40,000 deaths.

While total numbers remain low, the 22 cases last year compare with just 4 in 2009/10, the statistics show.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, Public Health England’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said the total number of notifications of scarlet fever this year has already reached 12,580 cases – the highest since 1970.

Cases of measles in hospital rose, from 160 to 205 cases, with a small rise in admissions for whooping cough, from 285 to 289 cases over the five years examined.

The figures on malnutrition follow a series of scandals of care of the elderly, with doctors, remarkably, forced to prescribe patients with drinking water or put them on drips to make sure they do not become severely dehydrated.

Charities have warned that too many patients are being found to be malnourished after being admitted to hospitals from care homes, as well as from their own homes.

However, Labour have said the figures a national scandal.

Luciana Berger MP, Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, said: “This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain and the Government’s response is hopelessly complacent.

“People are living under greater pressure and struggling with the cost of living”.

“Hundreds of thousands are forced to turn to food banks and sadly it’s unsurprising people are eating less, and eating less healthily too”.

“David Cameron needs to listen to what the experts are saying and tackle the cost of living crisis that is driving people into food poverty.”

Cases of malnutrition have been steadily increasing since the 2010 general election.

In 2009/10 there were 3,899 hospital admissions for this, in 2010/11 there were 4,660, in 2011/12 there were 5,396 then in 2012/13 this had risen again to 5,594.

People unable to feed themselves adequately needing hospital admission saw a significant rise to 6,686,  where malnutrition was the primary or secondary diagnosis during 2013/14.This is a rise of 71 per cent from 3,899 in the year up to April 2010.

Chris Mould, chief executive of the Trussell Trust which runs a nationwide network of food banks, said: “This shows increases in diseases related to poverty and that’s alarming.

“Our food banks see tens of thousands of people who have been going hungry, missing meals and cutting back on the quality of the food they buy.

“We know quite a large proportion of the population are struggling to get nutritious food on the table. And at the extreme end of that you get people who are malnourished”.

“We don’t believe anyone should have to go hungry in the UK”.

“The scale of the increases we’re seeing must be further investigated to find out why this is happening”.

Scurvy is a disease associated with pirates stuck at sea for long periods – has increased by 31 per cent in England since 2010. This is caused by a lack of vitamin C and is usually due to an inadequate diet without enough fresh fruit and vegetables.

Figures from January this year from the NHS indicate that there were 833 hospital admissions for children suffering from Rickets – a condition which is caused by a lack of Vitamin D, from 2012-13. Ten years ago, the figure was just 190.

The disease, which causes softening of the bones and permanent deformities, was common in 19th century Britain but was almost eradicated by improvements in nutrition. The body produces vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun, but it’s clear that adequate diet plays an important role, too, since the decline of Rickets happened at a time when we saw an improvement in the diets of the nation as a whole.

It is thought that malnutrition is the main cause, children are most at risk if their diet doesn’t include sufficient levels of vitamin D.

Low incomes, unemployment and benefit delays have combined to trigger increased demand for food banks among the UK’s poorest families, according to a report commissioned by the government and released earlier this year,

The report directly contradicts the claim from a government minister that the rise in the use of food banks is linked to the fact that there are now more of them. It says people turn to charity food as a last resort following a crisis such as the loss of a job, or problems accessing social security benefits, or through benefit sanctions.

The review emerged as the government comes under pressure from church leaders and charities to address increasing prevalence of food poverty caused by welfare cuts. The End Hunger Fast campaign called for a national day of fasting on 4 April to highlight the issue.

The report was written by  food policy experts from the University of Warwick, and it was passed to ministers in June 2013 but had remained undisclosed until February 2014, creating reasonable speculation that the government suppressed its findings.

Examining the effect of welfare changes on food bank use was not a specific part of its remit, and the report is understood to have undergone a number of revisions since early summer, ordered by the Department for Food and Agriculture and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The researchers found that a combination of rising food prices, ever-shrinking incomes, low pay, increasing personal debt, and benefit payment problems meant an increasing number of families could not afford to buy sufficient food.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored.

The group of academics and professionals said that the surge in the number of people requiring emergency food aid, a decrease in the amount of calories consumed by British families, and a doubling of the number of malnutrition cases seen at English hospitals represent “all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action”.

The health specialists also said:“Access to an adequate food supply is the most basic of human needs and rights”.

The authors of the letter, who include Dr David Taylor-Robinson and Professor Margaret Whitehead of Liverpool University’s Department of Public Health, say that they have serious concerns that malnutrition can have a long-lasting impact on health, particularly among children.

Tory ministers have repeatedly insisted that there is no “robust link” between the welfare reforms and rising food bank use, whilst welfare minister Lord Freud claimed the rise in food bank use was because there were more food banks and because the food was free.

It ought to be noted, not least by the government, that people may only access food banks when they are referred by a professional agency, such as social services, the DWP or a Doctor. In particular, vouchers for emergency food parcels tend to be given by benefits officials.

In all but exceptional cases, Trussell Trust food banks will only issue a food parcel to someone with a voucher from an accredited agency. Claimants are limited to emergency aid on three occasions only. This indicates that need, rather than availability, is the key reason for the increased use of food banks since 2010.

Together with the pressure created by rising prices and falling wages, there has been a marked increase in demand for emergency food aid since the welfare reforms came into effect. And this is affecting both people in and out of work.

More than half of people who have visited a food bank since April were referred because of social security problems.

The Government claimed the rapid increase in malnutrition cases “could be partly due to better diagnosis”.

I don’t imagine that it’s likely that Doctors have suddenly become better at diagnosis since 2010.

I do, however, think there is much scope for improvement in the capacity of Tory ministers for understanding correlation, basic cause and effect and simple connections.

However, Tory skills in mendacity, creating diversions and ad hominem are second to none.


See also:


 An email to authoritarian Tory MPs Charlie Elphicke, Priti Patel and Conor Burns

Quantitative Data on Poverty from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

430835_148211001996623_1337599952_n (1)

Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone 


79 thoughts on “Welfare reforms, food banks, malnutrition and the return of Victorian diseases are not coincidental, Mr Cameron

  1. Doctors becoming better at diagnosis of starvation, that has been human history for its million years of existence. That is a good laugh.

    The Tories and Liberals (now called Lib Dems) have always left the people to starve through the history of their parties. It is now so visible, that Labour should be surging ahead far beyond the few poll points it is today.

    If Labour wants to get a landslide victory in 2015, then there is a gap between what Miliband and Balls’ and the think tank Progress say, and Labour Left that would get the real mass of winning big.


    – Pay the half million women who lost state pension payout at 60 from 2013
    – Revoke Pension Bill
    – Revoke Flat Rate Pension 2016 that is actually leaving women with nil state pension for life
    – Revoke Welfare Reform Act

    Actually end all the benefit sanctions culture, workfare and all the huge admin costs that have made national debt worse not better.

    – Instead of benefit, pay a non-means tested universal citizen wage that is a basic income

    – Cut all the benefit admin altogether, including Jobcentres.

    By putting a citizen wage into people’s pockets, with no taxpayer funded benefits admin, as well as the state pension (payable if remain in work or retire), then the recession would end.

    Capitalism relies on the mass of the people having spending power.

    At the moment, all that is happening with Austerity is that politicians are copying Europe’s horrendous treatment of indebted EU member states, that is leaving people penniless, no social medicine, and starving. They are taxing the poor to death. Our equivalent is the Bedroom Tax, when politicians get a second home allowance of over £20,100 (the £100 cut from the oldest pensioners’ Winter Fuel Allowance).

    Tell women what is going to befall them with the Flat Rate Pension 2016, and put in manifesto that this Bill would be immediately revoked and the state pension at 60 paid to those who began to lose it from 2013, and give everywhere equally a citizen wage and watch how Labour soars into the stratosphere, and gets the biggest landslide victory in its history in 2015.


  2. To someone, who said amongst other things – “Articles like this should cite sources!” The sources are hyperlinked on the article. If you click on the blue parts, the link to the sources will open. Like magic, eh ? 🙂

    I haven’t cited any figures that aren’t on the reports and articles linked to this blog. I always link the source of any info I share on my blogs, be it statistical information, historic references or details of policies.


  3. New Legislation which will make Sick Notes from GPS after 4 weeks a thing of the past as Government and Employers take over….. Shocking News.

    The Health and Work Service

    Click to access health-and-work-service-specification.pdf

    will provide an occupational health assessment
    and general health and work advice to employees, employers and General
    Practitioners (GPs) to help individuals with a health condition to stay in or return
    to work.
    The service, which is due to start in late 2014 subject to discussions with the
    chosen supplier, has two elements:
    • Assessment: Once the employee has reached, or is expected to reach,
    four weeks of sickness absence they will normally be referred by their GP
    for an assessment by an occupational health professional, who will look at
    all the issues preventing the employee from returning to work.
    • Advice: Employers, employees and GPs will be able to access advice via
    a phone line and website.

    for full document visit…

    Click to access health-and-work-service-specification.pdf


  4. How do feel about about sending this to every MP in the country and ask for their response because they know what is really happening from their surgeries?Is this the economic miracle that genius Osborne promised us?


  5. All true my son got scarlett fever last year. I have two children and had all child tax credit took off me let struggling and free school dinners off me. All because I have a boyfriend who will not support my kids in anyway because they not his and he pays child support for his kids.
    I also noticed with the heatwave we have had some painfully skinny men with no tops on they looked starved showing all bones and one with cheek bones sticking out. Im only 8 stone so im not fat calling skinny people


    1. Yes, ta credit have just stopped my son’s money, they claim I didn’t submit evidence that he’s been at college, and want 5K back from me. I can’t appeal until I’ve been through a mandatory review. That could take months, meanwhile we are living on my ESA, i’m a disabled, lone parent, and feel that the IR simply took an opportunity to stop my money.

      Yes, people are starving 😦


  6. So sorry to hear what you are going through, Kitty. Shocking. Do you have a community garden near you or try to grow your own sprouts on a windowsill? This would help with Vitamin C etc. Yes, we have to fight this at every level but help ourselves and support each other on a very practical level as well. Please take care and thank you again for your excellent blogs.


    1. Yes, it’s because it’s associated with “rich foods” like red meat. But we know more about it now, and it’s the chemical content rather than the “richness” that causes the illness in people susceptible to it


  7. The most successful government ever – they’re increasing illness so their cronies buying the NHS will increase their profit margins. Ingenious; and so many are voting for this to happen; ‘turkeys are voting for Christmas again.


  8. Great article, and articulates what a lot of people are thinking. I pray we do the right thing come May 7th.

    Why the Tories get more than 1% of the vote amazes me. Turkeys voting for Christmas…


  9. The tories claim “Welfare reforms have improved lives”.
    The FULL statement should be “Welfare reforms have improved lives from the cradle to the grave… and we have made sure the “grave” bit comes sooner”.


  10. The next Tory “government”. Isn’t that the one where they try to radically reduce all types of welfare, where the slavery for the unemployed and disabled will be enlarged and where the seeds of the new workhouse will be sewn?


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