UK breaches human rights

UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has published a final report on poverty in the UK, concluding that the UK government is in a state of denial.

News | 22.05.19

The United Nation's Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston, after a detailed analysis of official reports, visits to the UK, meetings with ministers, officials and civil society representatives, plus submissions from many independent organisations (including the Centre for Welfare Reform) has concluded that:

"the policies pursued since 2010 amount to retrogressive measures in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations." 

In other words, the UK Government is breaching the human rights of its own citizens.

The official statement from the UN says:

The UK Government’s policies have led to the systematic immiseration of millions across Great Britain, the UN’s expert on poverty and human rights said in a report released today, calling for a new vision that embodies compassion to end the unnecessary hardship.

“The results of the austerity experiment are crystal clear,” Philip Alston said in his report following an official visit to the country in November 2018. “There are 14 million people living in poverty, record levels of hunger and homelessness, falling life expectancy for some groups, ever fewer community services, and greatly reduced policing, while access to the courts for lower-income groups has been dramatically rolled back by cuts to legal aid.

“The imposition of austerity was an ideological project designed to radically reshape the relationship between the Government and the citizenry,” the expert said. “UK standards of well-being have descended precipitately in a remarkably short period of time, as a result of deliberate policy choices made when many other options were available.”

The full report is available to read at:

Philip Alston discussed the findings from his report on a Facebook live event with Human Rights Watch here

The Guardian - UN report compares Tory welfare policies to creation of workhouses:

The Independent - UN tears into Tory-led austerity as 'ideological project causing pain and misery' in devastating report on UK poverty crisis:

The BBC - Poverty in the UK is 'systematic' and 'tragic', says UN special rapporteur:

Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform said:

"The UK is at a crisis point. Since 2010 our political leaders have lied to us, claiming that the policy changes they called 'reforms' were both necessary and would protect the most disadvantaged. In fact, as Philip Alston's report makes clear, the Government is intentionally breaching the human rights of its own citizens and harm has been targeted on women, minority groups and disabled people. The human cost of these policies is immense: misery, fear, suicide, poverty, unnecessary deaths, isolation, indignity, prostitution, domestic violence, family breakdown, hate crime, food banks and children going into care. The economic cost is also significant, as the UK continues to have one of the slowest rates of recovery from the 2008 recession, and social welfare cuts often simply transfer costs to other parts of society.

"The bigger question, which remains unanswered, is how a modern wealthy democracy can allow this to happen. We need to think seriously about the constitutional factors that underpin this human rights catastrophe. Human rights are not properly protected in law nor in our systems of power and accountability. Many of the organisations that we would have expected to hold the Government to account (universities, charities, trade unions and the media) have either been silenced or have chosen to stay silent. The fact that the clearest account of this crisis is provided by the UN should be a source of profound shame, not just to the UK political class, but also to civil society.

"The UK faces a choice. It can either accept the truth of the damage done or it can continue in denial. If we really care about truth, justice and human rights then we cannot continue to act as if our own Government does. After 9 years of human rights abuse, and with potentially many more years ahead, citizens and civil society leaders need to stop enabling the lies of Government and must make absolutely clear that its policies are totally wrong and utterly unacceptable." 

The Centre for Welfare Reform has published many articles and reports on the Austerity crisis and made a submission to the UN Rapporteur ahead of his visit to the UK: Extreme Poverty in a Time of Austerity.

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