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We've just released the final report by @Alston_UNSR, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme #poverty, on his visit to the #UK. The report is available here: undocs.org/A/HRC/41/39/Ad…. A few key takeaways:
Some have asked me why a UN expert on #poverty would visit the #UK. Unfortunately, although the UK is the world’s 5th largest economy, 14 million are in poverty, child poverty is rising & predicted to reach 40% by 2021, homelessness is up 60%, and food bank use has skyrocketed.
To understand #poverty in the #UK, you have to look at the massive disinvestment in social support since 2010: the end of a centralized social fund, changes to the ways benefits are capped & calculated that substantially reduce their value, the decimation of civil legal aid, etc.
In the #UK, austerity has been dumped down to the local level, where authorities are squeezed between huge cuts to their central funding (~50% in 7 yrs) and statutory responsibilities to provide social services. Care has declined; libraries & support programs have been shuttered.
Changes to taxes and benefits in the #UK since 2010 have been highly #regressive and taken the highest toll on those least able to bear it. This is especially true for certain groups who already must overcome structural disadvantages, including minorities and women.
The #UK should be proud of its historically strong safety net. But the policies pursued since 2010 amount to #retrogressive measures in violation of the country’s #human #rights obligations.
And @Alston_UNSR is hardly the only one to observe these alarming developments. People who struggle to make ends meet, single moms, Universal Credit claimants, oversight bodies, academics, think tanks, NGOs, and others have been ringing the alarm.
(Indeed, I am very thankful to the people in the #UK with lived experience of #poverty who generously shared their time and insights with our team. They are the true experts on the issues. Grateful also to civil society and academics for their invaluable support.)
Yet, despite a steady drumbeat of bad news about #poverty & living standards, the #UK Government too often denies it's an issue and touts record employment (even though in-work poverty is rising faster than employment & 60% of ppl in poverty are in a family where someone works).
The #UK's recalcitrance in recognizing the consequences of austerity -- rising homelessness, rapidly increasing food bank use, rises in child poverty, falling life expectancy for poor women -- is especially worrying in light of #Brexit, which is projected to worsen the economy.
But #Brexit is also an opportunity for a new vision that embodies British #compassion and places #social and #economic #rights front and center. Social inclusion, rather than marginalization of the working poor and those unable to work, should be the guiding principle.
The #UK should also restore local government funding to ensure crucial social protection can help people escape poverty, reverse regressive measures such as the benefits cap, and audit the impact of tax and spending decisions on different groups.
The full report and recommendations can be found here: undocs.org/A/HRC/41/39/Ad…. On June 27, @Alston_UNSR will present his report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, at which point the UK Government will formally respond. Watch this space for more details.
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