Cllr Ed Davie is the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, and a councillor in Thornton ward.
Crudely speaking the poorer a person is the more likely they are to get ill and die early from preventable causes.
Not only does poverty make it harder to afford decent housing, healthy food and opportunities to exercise it also makes it more likely a person is flooded with stress hormones which lower immunity and make it harder to make ‘healthy’ choices.
On average the poorest people in our community develop lifelong conditions decades earlier, die five years earlier and are twice as likely as the richest to smoke, be depressed and overweight.
This health gap is unacceptable, has been growing due to Tory and Lib Dem cuts to benefits and services, and means many of our residents are needlessly suffering, their potential unfulfilled at great financial and opportunity cost to the whole community.
Seeking to close this health gap Lambeth Labour councillors recently hosted a one-day summit to understand this problem better and seek ways of reducing poverty and ill health amongst our most deprived residents. To give one practical example of where we could make progress – if we were able to support every smoker in Lambeth to quit not only would we dramatically improve health we would also lift about 2,000 people out of poverty as they saved the money they were spending on cigarettes.
Although seeking to support positive behaviour change with our poorest residents like this is important, it is even more important to change the behaviour of those with the most resources so that opportunity is more evenly spread.
Employment in Lambeth has risen significantly, currently surpassing London’s average and reaching around 80%. Unfortunately, in work poverty is still at around 20% in Lambeth, therefore we have been running a year-round campaign to support the Living Wage, offering a business rates discount covering the cost of getting accredited and encouraging its partner organisations to take up the Living Wage. With thousands of businesses in Lambeth and many more opening over the years, supporting and promoting the Living Wage is central in our push to tackle the issue and ensure people working in Lambeth don’t find themselves living on the breadline.
Our hard work has been recognised, with the London Food Poverty Campaign recognising us as one of the councils with the most effective approach to food poverty in contrast to Conservative-run neighbours in Wandsworth and Westminster who consistently come bottom of the league table.
We are working with the local NHS trusts to ensure that they become Living Wage accredited employers just as Lambeth Council has been since 2012. We have also introduced a Responsible Procurement Policy, giving a clear message to suppliers, and staff, on Lambeth’s priorities, such as providing good quality jobs with fair pay and decent working conditions, increasing the range of targeted employment opportunities for Lambeth residents, and maximising health and wellbeing. Through the council’s financial resilience strategy, we have helped thousands of residents with debt advice, to get the benefits they deserve and to be supported through any welfare reforms. Lastly, we have made it a priority to give young people the best start in life through record investment in the most deprived wards through the Lambeth Early Action Partnership and Lambeth Made.
Tackling poverty is a political choice and Lambeth Labour chooses to be on the side of those who are struggling so that our whole community is better and fairer. Our aim is to ensure that Lambeth residents are happier, healthier and financially resilient. We are determined to work collaboratively- with other public sector organisations, residents, third sector organisations, housing associations, local businesses, the government and others – to achieve a better and fairer Lambeth.