A Suffolk MP has set out his vision on how to tackle the county’s dental crisis, particularly with young people. Waveney MP Peter Aldous is leading calls to scrap VAT on children’s toothbrushes, to tackle widespread dental health problems.
Mr Aldous said the measure could have a significant impact on the welfare of young people in his constituency. He raised the issue this week in a House of Commons debate on problems with dental care provision.
The Norfolk and Waveney area is one of the worst ‘dental deserts’ in England, with 38 dentists per 100,000 people, and experts have warned this is having major health implications. Mr Aldous said: “You hear horrific stories about young people needing whole-mouth replacements because of poor oral hygiene.
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“Such a strategy [the VAT cut] would embed good oral healthcare at an early age and would help prevent those [operations],” he added. The MP spoke out in the Commons having discussed the issue with community groups in Lowestoft.
One of them, Lowestoft Rising, has organised an initiative with local businesses and other community groups, to buy toothbrushes for primary school pupils and help educate those with learning difficulties about dental care. Mr Aldous was told by the group that without the 20pc VAT charge on the items, their money for the project could go even further.
He accepted that the Treasury may “baulk” at his suggestion, and that he was not expecting immediate changes to the tax system, but said he had raised the issue in parliament to “get the ball into play”. The Waveney MP described the idea as a “Brexit dividend looking us right in the eye”, because the UK’s departure from the EU has given the country freedom from European tax rules.
He told the Commons: “As we have seen with the zero-rating of women’s sanitary products, we now have more flexibility to vary our fiscal regime. If necessary, such a VAT exemption could apply to children’s dental products in much the same way as it does for children’s shoes.”
Recently, Mr Aldous joined his colleagues, North Norfolk’s Duncan Baker and Broadland’s Jerome Mayhew, in pushing for a new dentistry school at the UEA. The MPs argue that dentists trained here are more likely to stay, helping to tackle the region’s dental crisis.”
“Initially, I don’t think the government were very enthusiastic about another dental school but at the meeting last week [MPs and UEA representatives] were able to put over a very compelling case,” Mr Aldous said.
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