16th November: A fifth of the population lives in poverty in the UK and this number is projected to increase as a result of the “systematic dismantling of social protection,” according to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
Philip Alston, reporting today on his visit to the UK, contrasts the nation’s wealth with the 14m living in poverty, 4m more than 50% below the poverty line including 1.5m in destitution, unable to afford essentials. He reveals unanimity in views from interviews with researchers, beneficiaries and media that poverty is a major challenge, but a state of denial by Ministers, and calls for an official measure of poverty.
“The [Government] produces four different measures of people who live on ‘below average income’. This allows it to pick and choose which numbers to use and to claim that “absolute poverty” is falling,” he said. While the Government says that 3.3m more people are in work compared to 2010, Alston says in-work poverty is increasingly common, with 60% of households in poverty with a member who works.
Alston said that there was “no clear evidence” that conditionality had led to increases in employment rates and recommends an independent review of the effectiveness of reforms to welfare conditionality and “more constructive and less punitive approaches” to encouraging compliance.
He adds that the use of technology needs to take into account human rights obligations. “Government is increasingly automating itself with the use of data and new technology tools… evidence shows that the human rights of the poorest and most vulnerable are especially at risk in such contexts.”