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Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Fight Poverty Not Just The Consequences

Children in less well of families have worse health than their better-off peers. Not exactly news. The health of children in Scotland “among the worst in Europe” again not a surprise. These headlines are becoming all too familiar. What we see less of is action.

This week’s headlines follow a report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health: The State of Child Health.

These reports come out with depressing regularity and despite their recommendations and fine words from politicians the facts remain the same.

I have no issue with the report’s recommendations per se:
improve breastfeeding rates with more workers to support mothers
reduce childhood obesity by ensuring unhealthy food isn't available near schools, colleges and leisure centres
do more research
extend smoking bans to school playgrounds

All healthcare professionals to discuss being overweight with patients every time they see them maybe a bit challenging and anyway I’m not sure anyone who is overweight is unaware of it. Imagine someone coming into the health centre with severe depression having to deal with “ I know you are depressed but let’s talk about your weight” no matter how well its put. I think health staff should make judgements about how to support people to lose weight on a case-by-case meeting-by-meeting basis. But again I’m not a health worker so what do I know?

Action to lift people out of the poverty that is actually causing their problems would be cheaper and more effective in the long (and short) term. For example a £5 a week increase in child benefit as called for by CPAG

It isn't wrong of the Royal College to focus on health services it is their area of expertise after all but a more holistic approach and focus on improving wider public services would make a massive difference. Breastfeeding on or waiting for a bus is much more challenging than if you own a car. It’s more than lack of info about the benefits: there are real barriers.

Improving housing, transport, environmental services, parks sports and leisure centres alongside education and job creation would make substantial leaps in the quality of the physical and mental health of families and children.

How many more times will we see these reports with no action on poverty?

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