So, for the last two weeks the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (also known as Philip Alston) has been investigating the impact of poverty in the UK.
Alston toured the country speaking to those most affected by Tory imposed austerity measures. On Friday he released a 24 page report on what he found.
To quote him directly:
‘In the area of poverty-related policy, the evidence points to the conclusion that the driving force has not been economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering.’
The report basically lays out that since 2010 the Conservative party has successfully destroyed social security in the UK and essentially blamed those in poverty for their own circumstances. They continually quote high levels of employment as evidence of the success of their policies.
However, unlike the Tories, Alston took the time to travel around the UK and actually listened to those living in poverty.
Some of the main things to take away from the report are:
- 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty
- Child poverty has increased to levels not seen since the 1990s
- Women,black and ethnic minorities, single parents, people with disabilities and older people are unfairly affected by austerity (this is in violation of numerous international treaties signed by the UK)
In case anyone needs reminding at this point, the UK is the FIFTH RICHEST country in the world.
Now, the Tories have replied to the report or rather denied the report. They say there is no extreme poverty, citing the highest records of unemployment ever and that household incomes have never been higher.
Others have told the UN it should concentrate on third world countries rather than the UK (do I smell racism?).
You can watch one of them outright deny the report here:
But being in a job doesn’t mean you aren’t living in poverty.
Around 60% of people living in poverty in the UK are from families where at least one person works full time. The national minimum wage in the UK is is in no way near enough to live on – especially if you are trying to support a family.
The Trussell Trust (who run the countries foodbank network)have said that 1 in 6 people using foodbanks are in work. Again, we are the world’s FIFTH RICHEST country – foodbanks should not exist.
So, for the Tories to argue that employment is at a high record and therefore poverty is a non-issue shows just how out of touch they are with the country they claim to be doing a good job of running.
British society is full of low paid and insecure work, with benefits such as Universal Credit forcing people back into work when they are not ready to do so.
In case you didn’t know about Universal Credit – it’s probably the biggest failure of Tory welfare reform. It rolls various benefits into one payment with wait periods of 5 to 8 weeks – right before Christmas. Could you go without an income for this long?
They claim this reflects the traditional monthly wage and will help people back into work as a result.
But how many people these days are still paid monthly? Many people (particularly in low paid jobs) are paid weekly, or fortnightly and benefits have always been that way too. Simply rolling it all into a monthly payment with little or no support to help people budget is obviously going to cause issues.
In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out there has been an increase in the use of food banks (around 44%), and the benefit itself is more about forcing people back into work rather than helping them.
You can read more about it here, and also sign a wee petition if you’re like me and think it’s a load of shite:
ALSTON DESCRIBED WELFARE REFORM AS SEXIST:
‘If you got a group of misogynists together in a room and said “how can we make a system that works for men but not women?” they wouldn’t have come up with too many other ideas than what’s in place.’
Let’s be honest, it probably was as group of misogynists in a room deciding these policies.
Now throw Brexit into the austerity mix and again, it’s the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society that are going to take the biggest hit – that’s because let’s be honest any economic savings we need to make aren’t gonna come from those big boys at the top.
Again, women, children, BAME, older people and people with disabilities are going to be completely devastated.
Basically, what Alston has found out (which a lot of us already know) is that the UK government is completely disconnected with the lived reality of a whopping 14 million people in the UK who are literally choosing between paying rent or feeding their kids.
Austerity is a choice made by the government, it is not necessary and has not in any way improved the lives of ordinary working people in Britain.
Poverty actually costs the country £78 billion a year in measures to reduce it – but imagine if the government upped wages, attempted to fix the housing crisis, gave workers more protections against insecure jobs and maybe actually taxed big money.
Maybe that’s just too much to ask though?
If you’ve made it this far, thank you and as always, Up The Tories xo