Britain has “deliberately removed” much of its social safety net due to political ideology “in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations”, a UN-commissioned report said Wednesday.
Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said “harsh and uncaring” austerity policies introduced following the financial crisis “continue largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences”.
My final report on poverty in the #UK is now available online. I found that the Government is doubling down on anti-poor policies that have led to the systematic immiseration of millions across Great Britain: https://t.co/Uznr6M3EP4 #UKPoverty pic.twitter.com/MoIFDWPYOq
— Philip Alston (@PhilipGAlston) May 22, 2019
“The policies pursued since 2010 amount to retrogressive measures in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations,” said the report.
The Conservative government dismissed the findings, calling them a “barely believable documentation of Britain” that painted a “completely inaccurate picture” of the country’s welfare system.
The @Channel4News independent Fact Check service says:
"Labour’s claim that “our country has never been more unequal” does not stand up to scrutiny" https://t.co/Zpo0dD8Wq0
— Neil O'Brien MP (@NeilDotObrien) May 21, 2019
Australian lawyer Alston visited Britain in November, and will present his final report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 27.
The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centers, and sold off public spaces and buildings
In its summary, he said that “the bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.
“A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.”
Govt. denies the allegations
He accused the government of being “in a state of denial”, saying the motivations behind their policies were not “economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering – a dramatic restructuring of the relationship between people and the State.
Despite being the fifth largest economy in the world, 20 percent of Britain’s people live in poverty, and 1.5 million experienced destitution in 2017, he reported.
"It’s really shocking that a rich country like the UK…can find itself in a position where 50 times more people need emergency food parcels compared to just a decade ago"
— Rebecca Riddell (@Rebecca_Riddell) May 20, 2019
“The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centers, and sold off public spaces and buildings,” he added.
Uk should ease up on policies
The report called on Britain to “reverse particularly regressive” welfare measures such as the benefit cap, and reduction in housing benefit.
It also urged the government to restore local government funding.
Britain’s Department for Work and Pensions replied that “the UN’s own data shows the UK is one of the happiest places in the world to live, and other countries have come here to find out more about how we support people to improve their lives.
“Therefore this is barely believable documentation of Britain, based on a tiny period of time spent here. It paints a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty,” said a spokeswoman.
Out now. New from @HRW. A program of sweeping welfare cuts and a botched restructuring of the social security system has left thousands of UK families without food on the table. Time to respect the #right2food. https://t.co/6GB6EQzL2o #UKpoverty pic.twitter.com/6WcZluNaMu
— Kartik Raj (at/a/en🏠) (@Kartik__Raj) May 20, 2019
“All the evidence shows that full-time work is the best way to boost your income and quality of life, which is why our welfare reforms are focused on.”
AFP story with additional input by GVS news desk