SCANDAL OF HUNGRY MOTHERS - neglected need of women to buy a healthy diet to give birth to healthy babies

24 May 2016

THE SCANDAL OF HUNGRY MOTHERS government after government has neglected the need of women to buy a healthy diet to give birth to a healthy baby

It does not take a brain surgeon to understand that if a woman cannot buy a healthy diet before she conceives and while she is pregnant then the unborn baby in her womb is also short of nutrition.  It also seems obvious, without any research, that single adult unemployment benefits are too low to buy a healthy diet.

In 2009, therefore,  I persuaded the Labour ministers at the DWP to send to their ministerial colleagues at the MoH a question as to whether it was possible for a young woman to buy a healthy diet and other necessities before and during pregnancy on £64.30 a week (after rent and council tax) or £50.95 up to the age of 25.  I referred them to the work of Professor Michael Crawford at the Institute for Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition. The DoH referred the question to The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition  (SACN).  The problem with SACN, from my point of view, is that they never consider the economic aspects of maternity.

We then had the 2010 election; so I wrote to the new Conservative minister asking for progress on my question. His officials replied that the DoH had returned it to the DWP as it was not the DoH's problem.

DWP never considers the health consequences of their decisions. The Ramsbotham amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill 2016 nearly made them but Labour peers abstained on the crucial vote.

The value of the Single adult JSA has been allowed to wither on the vine since 1980. Since 2010 increases have been frozen at 1%. In April 2016 there was no rise at all on JSA of £73.10 a week or £57.90 up the age of 25. Now benefit sanctions stop it for one month, three months or three years. it now sometimes pays rent due to housing benefit cuts and council tax due to council tax benefit cuts. Unemployed tenants have been made to bear the brunt of austerity without regard to maternity.

Nutritionists have developed the methodology for researching the weekly price of a healthy diet at York University; it is attached A. MIS_thefoodbudgetstandard_workingpaper A

The Center for Research in Social Policy at the University of Loughborough finance by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have used that methodology to establish a minimum income food standard for a single person of £43 a week  (see full report, page 15 Table 1)

I have written to Peers aware of the lost vote on health in the 2016 Welfare Reform Bill. The statistics in Child Poverty Act 2010, which were due to be abolished by the bill, and which the government decided to retain at the same time as Labour's abstention on the Ramsbotham amendment, do not reveal the damage done, and being done, to the poorest mothers and their offspring by the decades of governmental neglect of their inability to buy a healthy diet.

Rev Paul Nicolson, 24th May 2016.