The UK’s wealth disparity is widening as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a COVID-19 Social Study conducted by University College London that was released on Friday.
Launched the week before the first lockdown began, it is the UK’s largest study with over 70,000 participants. The respondents were followed over the last 34 weeks and the focus has been on their overall wellbeing, mental health as well as reaction to tightening restrictions and government advice.
Almost half of those who found things “very difficult” financially before lockdown are now reporting things are “much worse,” according to the study, with a further 23% saying things are “worse.” This figure has increased significantly from July, when 57% of the same group reported being financially worse off than before the pandemic.
These observations stand in contrast with respondents who regarded themselves as being financially “comfortable” before the pandemic, the study said. Within this group, 20% said they are now worse off, with a quarter saying they are better off than they were in the spring. That is compared to just 10% of those who were finding things “very difficult” financially before the lockdown.
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The regions most hard hit with the widening financial gap are those living in the North East of England, where restrictions have been tougher than in the rest of the UK. Almost 39% of respondents living in the area said they were worse off financially than prior to the pandemic.
“It’s clear that restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19, while necessary, are having a damaging impact on people’s financial situations across the UK,” said Dr. Daisy Fancourt, lead author of the study. “What’s even more worrying is that this impact is not being felt evenly, and is widening existing social inequalities.”
She called for the government to address the widening financial gaps by “ensuring that people are not financially penalised for following lockdown measures, that regions undergoing stricter lockdown measures receive the financial support they need to support those who are struggling financially, and that the divide is not allowed to increase further.”
The ongoing COVID-19 study has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation, Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation.
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