On 27th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn asked a question he had tabled on the link between covid-19 rates and high levels of poverty.
Question Asked by The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made as to whether there is a correlation between areas with high COVID-19 infection rates and high levels of poverty; and if there is such a correlation, what steps they intend to take to address this as part of their levelling up agenda.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con): My Lords, the facts are heartbreaking. Covid, like many diseases, has hit hardest those who are most vulnerable: the poorest, the most disabled and those who work in some of the most difficult jobs. The vaccine rollout and community testing programmes have shown what the country can do, but there is much more to be done. That is why we are publishing a levelling-up White Paper, and health inequalities will be central to that.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and the work that he and colleagues are doing in a fast-changing scene. We know that it is not easy. Does he agree that care for the poorest, most disadvantaged and most vulnerable in the community is one of the signs of a healthy society? Can he be more specific about how equality of opportunity in the levelling-up agenda will be rolled out?
Lord Bethell (Con): My Lords, I can certainly speak for the inequalities we have in health. The right reverend Prelate is entirely right—Covid has been a real reminder of the impact of deprivation and inequality on the population. Those who are disabled are two-and-a-half times more likely to have had some form of life issue with Covid. In terms of deprivation, mortality in the most-deprived neighbourhoods was more than double the rate than in less-deprived neighbourhoods. Those facts are chilling. They are a wake-up call, and we will be working through our levelling-up agenda.