Poverty is a political choice: UN report on the UK

Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has published a damning report after his visit to the UK.  After seeing and speaking to a range of people from 10 areas around the UK, including Newcastle where he met with a number of organisations and agencies including West End Foodbank and Carol Botten (VONNE CEO), the official report states that one fifth of the UK's population live in poverty, with 1.5 million of people living as destitute, and cites the Institute for Fiscal Studies prediction of a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 - 2022.

The report claims the UK Government remain "determinedly in a state of denial", and claims their approach is "punitive, mean spirited and callous".

Philip Alston outlines the disproportionately negative impacts of Brexit for those already struggling, and is critical of Universal Credit, particularly the five week wait time. Philip's report further states that government ministers are "almost entirely dismissive" of stories from real people and frontline workers and benefit sanctions are "harsh" and "arbitrary" in nature.

The report outlines the dismantling of the broader social safety net, citing examples such as cuts to legal aid, benefit reductions and limits, and cuts to local authority budgets. The UN rapporteur states some people are disproportionately affected: women, children, people with disabilities, pensioners, those living in rural poverty, and asylum seekers and migrants ("Destitution is built into the asylum system").

The report cites a 60% increase in homelessness since 2010 and a four-fold increase in the use of foodbanks since 2012. The number of foodbanks has increased from 29 at the height of the financial crisis to about 2000.

Philip Alston makes a series of recommendations including that Government should introduce a single measure of poverty and food security; the five week delay for Universal Credit should be eliminated; and on Brexit, the UK Government should "adopt policies designed to ensure that the brunt of the resulting economic burden is not borne by its most vulnerable citizens".

Read the full statement on the UN website.