Coronavirus has hit the poorest hardest and “ruthlessly exposed” Britain’s inequalities – with the most deprived in the UK twice as likely to die, a damning study reveals today.
A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank and Nobel Prize-winning economist Sir Angus Deaton found the pandemic revealed and caused deep unfairness which may threaten the fabric of society.
Their inquiry shows Covid-19 mortality rates have been around twice as high in the most deprived communities as in the least deprived.
It also finds many ethnic minority groups have suffered much higher rates of mortality than the white majority.
And report author Sir Angus has warned that without urgent action, these gaps will widen further.
His report says there is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle the disadvantages faced by many that this pandemic has so devastatingly exposed”.
“We now face a set of challenges which we cannot duck”, it adds.
Sir Angus said: “As the vaccines should, at some point this year, take us into a world largely free of the pandemic, it is imperative to think about policies that will be needed to repair the damage and that focus on those who have suffered the most.
“We need to build a country in which everyone feels that they belong.”
It also reveals how the best-paid and most highly educated have been “much better able to ride out the crisis”, it says, with many in occupations they could continue from the safety of their homes.
Children from poorer households found it harder to do schoolwork during lockdown and have been more likely to miss school since September, it notes.
And while the biggest risk factor for coronavirus is age, younger people have been hit harder by the economic consequences of the crisis.
The briefing is calling for extra support for children who have fallen behind and help for school and university leavers to find jobs.
The welfare safety net must be adapted so it supports non-traditional forms of employment, including insecure and self-employed workers, and minority ethnic groups must be given greater economic opportunities.
Progress in reducing poor mental and physical health could be “one of the clearest indications of the success of economic and social policy”, it adds.
Mark Franks, director of welfare at the Nuffield Foundation, said: “Individuals are subject to a wide range of potential vulnerabilities around dimensions including age, ethnicity, place of birth, education, income and the nature of their employment.
“Where these vulnerabilities intersect, they can amplify and reinforce one another and play a huge role in driving unequal outcomes. “As we enter a vital year, the IFS-Deaton Review of Inequalities is playing an important role in demonstrating how the pandemic has ruthlessly exposed such existing inequalities and also exacerbated them.”