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UN expert blasts austerity ‘anti-poor policies’

The UN’s expert on human rights has published a damning report on the austerity policies of the British government, which he claims have left 14 million people living in poverty.

The report by special rapporteur Philip Alston follows a visit to the UK back in November, when he claimed government policies and benefit cuts have inflicted ‘unnecessary misery’ in the UK.

In his final report, Mr Alston said the results of the ‘austerity experiment’ are ‘crystal clear’ with 14 million people living in poverty, record levels of hunger and homelessness and ever fewer community services.

‘It is hard to imagine a recipe better designed to exacerbate inequality and poverty and to undermine the life prospects of many millions,’ he said.

‘But in response to this social calamity, the government has doubled down on its policies.

‘The endlessly repeated response that there are more people in employment than ever before overlooks inconvenient facts: largely as a result of slashed government spending on services, close to 40 per cent of children are predicted to be living in poverty two years from now; 16 per cent of people over 65 live in relative poverty; and millions of those who are in-work are dependent upon various forms of charity to cope.’

Mr Alston acknowledged that the government had taken action on a number of the issues raised in his preliminary report.

‘I welcome the moves to adopt a uniform poverty measure, to systematically survey food insecurity, and to further delay the rollout of Universal Credit,’ he said.

‘That programme will be improved by plans to provide more time to repay advances, to reduce debt payment limits, and to reduce extreme penalties. But, for all the talk that austerity is over, massive disinvestment in the social safety net continues unabated,” he added.

The UN expert also said Brexit is clearly an issue of utmost concern to all sides but it has also become a ‘tragic distraction’ from the social and economic policies that in the meantime are shaping a Britain that it is hard to believe any political parties really want.

‘It certainly won’t be a prouder, stronger, and more self-confident British community that emerges unless attention is given to the crisis of destitution and the chronic insecurity of low-income earners,’ he added.

‘The government should restore local government funding to ensure crucial social protection can help people escape poverty, reverse particularly regressive measures such as the benefits cap and two-child limit, and audit the impact of tax and spending decisions on different groups.’

Mr Alston is pictured during a visit to North Belfast, as part of his investigation last year. 

The image is © Bassam Khawaja 2018.

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