Amber Rudd to lodge complaint about UN report calling Britain ‘Dickensian’

WORK and Pensions boss Amber Rudd is planning to lodge a formal complaint about an extraordinary UN report that compares the Government’s welfare reforms to 19th century workhouses.

UN extreme poverty adviser Philip Alston claimed the “glue” holding British society together had been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos” due to policies of austerity introduced in 2010.

Amber Rudd is planning to lodge a formal complaint about UN report that compares the Government’s welfare reforms to 19th century workhouses
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Amber Rudd is planning to lodge a formal complaint about UN report that compares the Government’s welfare reforms to 19th century workhouses[/caption]

In his report Philip Alston says that austerity policies had removed the 'glue' holding UK society together
AFP – Getty

In his report Philip Alston says that austerity policies had removed the ‘glue’ holding UK society together[/caption]

He blasted ministers for continuing “largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences”.

But the Department for Work and Pensions branded the report a “barely believable documentation of Britain” and said it painted a “completely inaccurate picture” of its approach to tackling poverty.

It is understood Ms Rudd is consulting the Foreign Office before raising an official complaint about Mr Alston’s conclusions.

Mr Alston, an Australian international law scholar, visited the UK in November last year and his final report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 27.

In the summary of his report, he said that, although the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, one-fifth of its population (14million people) live in poverty, and 1.5million experienced destitution in 2017.

‘HARSH AND UNCARING ETHOS’

Mr Alston said the Government’s policies had led to the “systematic immiseration (sic) of millions” across Great Britain.

He added: “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 centres, and sold off public spaces and buildings.

“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.”

The report calls on the Government to reverse “particularly regressive” measures such as the benefit freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap, and reduction in housing benefit.

The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.

Philip Alston

It also recommends restoring local government funding to provide social protection and tackle poverty.

Mr Alston said the policies pursued since 2010 amounted to a clear violation of the UK’s human rights obligations.

‘OPPORTUNITY TO RE-IMAGINE’

He added: “Considering the significant resources available in the country and the sustained and widespread cuts to social support, which have resulted in significantly worse outcomes, the policies pursued since 2010 amount to retrogressive measures in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations.”

The report said that if Brexit proceeds it is likely to have a “major adverse impact on the most vulnerable” but that it also presents an opportunity.

It added: “Brexit presents an opportunity to re-imagine what the United Kingdom stands for. Legislative recognition of social rights should be a central part of that re-imagining.

“And social inclusion, rather than increasing marginalisation of the working poor and those unable to work, should be the guiding principle of social policy.”

But the DWP said it was spending £95billion a year on welfare and maintains a state pension system that supports people into retirement.

Brexit presents an opportunity to re-imagine what the United Kingdom stands for. Legislative recognition of social rights should be a central part of that re-imagining.

Philip Alston

A spokeswoman added: “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 a 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.

“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 supporting people into employment and we introduced the National Living Wage, so people earn more in work.”

But shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said the evidence in the report should be a “source of shame” to the Government.

She added: “This report is a shocking indictment of the brutal cuts to social security introduced by Conservative-led governments since 2010 and the deeply flawed, punitive system that they have created.

“The Government attacked the initial report in November as being ‘political’ and brushed it aside.

“It must now end this state of denial, listen to the evidence and take urgent action to tackle the profound injustices in our society.”

Margaret Greenwood says that instead of denying the findings, government should 'listen to the evidence and take urgent action to tackle the profound injustices in our society'
PA:Press Association

Margaret Greenwood says that instead of denying the findings, government should ‘listen to the evidence and take urgent action to tackle the profound injustices in our society’[/caption]



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