The UN’s poverty inspector has pulled no punches with his criticism of the UK government’s policies and drastic cuts to social support, warning that they are entrenching people in poverty and “inflicting unnecessary misery”.
Special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston delivered his initial findings today following a two-week tour of the UK to assess hardship in nine English cities as well as Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
He reported that 14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50 per cent below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. After years of progress, poverty is rising again, with child poverty predicted to rise seven per cent between 2015 and 2022. Homelessness is up 60 per cent since 2010, and food banks are also rapidly multiplying.
Streaming live on Friday: the UN Special Rapporteur's preliminary findings on the UK. During our 12-day visit, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has investigated the Government’s efforts to tackle poverty in the UK, the impact of austerity measures, Universal Credit, Brexit, and an increasingly digital government on people living in poverty. Tune in on Friday, November 16th at 12pm GMT to watch the press conference.
Posted by Philip Alston on Friday, November 16, 2018
Alston targeted child poverty as well, describing the predicted seven per cent rise in rates by 2022 as “staggering”. He said: “In the fifth richest country in the world, this is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.”
The result was a scathing attack on Universal Credit, demanding that the five-week waiting period for a first payment should be abolished immediately. He also revealed a third of claimants give up on the digital-only application process before receiving payment – a situation Alston suggested, “The DWP would be happy with because it means paying less benefits”.