Mark Whitehead 06 June 2023

Austerity left Britain ‘unprepared' for pandemic, TUC say

Austerity left Britain ‘unprepared for pandemic, TUC say  image
Image: Sam72 / Shutterstock.com.

Years of austerity left Britain 'hugely unprepared' for the COVID pandemic with tragic consequences, union leaders have claimed.

A report by the TUC says the policies of the former prime minister David Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne led to 'unsafe staffing in public services, a broken safety net and decimated workplace safety enforcement'.

Austerity and the pandemic: how cuts damaged four vital pillars of pandemic resilience, highlights £14bn of cuts in support to households since 2010.

It also points to studies showing living in poverty was associated with greater risks of exposure to COVID and suffering serious illness.

The report says safe staffing levels in health and social care were undermined by years of pay caps and pay freezes which reduced recruitment and increased staff turnover, leaving health and social care 'dangerously understaffed' when the pandemic began.

Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the TUC, said: 'In the NHS and social care, funding cuts put staff levels in the danger zone.

'Cuts to social security pushed many more people below the poverty line, leaving them more vulnerable to infection, and cuts to health and safety left workers exposed to rogue employers who cut corners and put their lives at risk.'

The TUC's report follows a recent study by researchers at Oxford University that found that cuts had hollowed-out local capability leaving local government struggling to cope with the impact of COVID.

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