More than 100 Midlothian residents 'die in poverty' each year
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End-of-life charity Marie Curie said it was "shocking" that more than 90,000 people across the UK pass away while living in poverty annually and called for urgent action from the UK Government. And the findings could be an underestimate as research by Loughborough University for the charity analysed data from before both the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
The estimates suggest that 124 people in Midlothian died in 2019 having experienced poverty in the last year of their life – around 13 per cent of the total number of deaths in the area. They were among 8,547 annual deaths in poverty across Scotland, and almost 93,000 throughout the whole of the UK.
More than 15 per cent of the nearly 605,000 people who died in the UK in 2019 are estimated to have experienced poverty in the last year before their death.
Researchers modelled estimates using a combination of data from a survey which closely followed the lives of thousands of people from 2009 to 2019, and local figures on deprivation.
For most of the findings, the Social Metrics Commission's definition of poverty was used which examines how much someone’s resources, after housing costs, meets their needs – including "inescapable costs" such as childcare and disability.
Juliet Stone, from the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, said: "The number of people dying in poverty has almost certainly risen even further since the period covered by our research and will only get higher in the coming months as the cost of living crisis deepens.”
They found that around three-quarters of the people who died experiencing poverty were of pension age – representing 13 per cent of the more than 500,000 deaths among this group.
Around 25,000 were of working age, but this equated to 28 per cent of the 90,000 deaths in this cohort – making them more than twice as likely to die in poverty than those who live past pension age.
The research suggests women and people from minority ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable to poverty at the end of life.
Of the 124 deaths in poverty in Midlothian in 2019, 83 are estimated to be pensioners and 40 of working age.
Marie Curie is calling for urgent action to give terminally ill people of working age access to their State Pension.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the charity, said: "No one wants to imagine spending the last months of their life shivering in a cold home, struggling to feed themselves, their children, and burdened with the anxiety of falling into debt. But for 90,000 people a year that is their reality.
"We are staggered to see the scale of poverty among dying people – it is shocking."
The charity is also calling for greater support with energy costs for all terminally ill people and for more support with the costs of childcare for terminally ill parents with young children.
A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The Government is taking decisive action to ease pressures on the cost of living, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty.”