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Alston report: letter demands action


UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston,report, poverty in the UK, 50 signatories, open letter, demand action, end poverty, Deep cuts to public services do not work and work does not pay for too many people’.

Last week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, presented his report on UK poverty in front of the UN Human Rights Council.

In his summary he said: ‘although  the  United  Kingdom  is  the world’s  fifth  largest  economy,  one  fifth  of  its population  (14  million  people)  live  in  poverty,  and  1.5  million  of  them  experienced destitution  in  2017.

‘Policies  of  austerity  introduced  in  2010  continue  largely  unabated, despite the tragic social consequences.

‘Close to 40 per cent of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Food banks have proliferated; homelessness and rough sleeping have increased greatly; tens of thousands of poor families must live in accommodation far from  their  schools, jobs  and  community  networks;  life  expectancy  is  falling  for  certain groups; and the legal aid system has been decimated.

‘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.’

And 50 leading poverty and inequality groups and activists have now written an open letter to the UK government demanding change:

Fourteen million people live in poverty, one and a half million of them in destitution, four in ten children are poor, food banks proliferate, homelessness and rough sleeping are on the rise, life expectancy is falling for women born in deprived areas… And all of it despite historically high employment levels.

The conclusion is both clear and bitter: Deep cuts to public services do not work and work does not pay for too many people.

If the government had intended to harm the British social fabric on purpose, their masterplan would not have needed to be substantially different from the social devastation we’ve seen this last decade.

The world’s fifth economy must do much better than this.

In recent weeks, the Government has accused Mr Alston of political bias and of painting a completely inaccurate picture. It is time neither for complacency nor histrionics.

We urge the Government to be responsible and engage with international human rights bodies, and above all to listen to people that are most affected by the policies they are implementing.

We are witnessing an unstoppable movement to end poverty, fight inequality, preserve public services and champion human rights.

Working poor people and those unable to work deserve to be heard. Mr Alston’s verdict is out. It’s the government’s turn now. The world is listening.


Jamie Burton, Chair, Just Fair;

Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director, The Equality Trust;

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Founder and Director, Surviving Economic Abuse;

Joanne Welch, Campaign Director, Back To 60;

Rev Paul Nicolson, Founder, Taxpayers Against Poverty;

Kath Dalmeny, CEO, Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming;

Tracey Herrington, Project Manager, Thrive Teesside;

Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator, Independent Food Aid Network;

Amanda Dubarry, Chief Executive, Caritas Anchor House;

Dr Simon Hoffman, Convenor, Wales Human Rights Stakeholder Group;

Gisela Valle, Interim Director, Latin American Women’s’ Rights Service;

Ele Hicks, Policy Manager, Diverse Cymru;

Kemi Akinola, Chief Executive, Be Enriched;

Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, University of Birmingham;

Professor Jon May, Queen Mary University of London;

Liane Groves, Head of Unite Community;

Dr Andrew Fagan, Co-Deputy Director, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex;

Dr Madeleine Power, University of York;

Robin Burgess, CEO, Northampton Hope Centre and IFAN trustee;

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women’s Budget Group;

Deidre Woods, Food Activist;

Amy Murtagh, Interim Director, Project 17;

Adele Rose-Morgan, Founder, Joining the Dots;

Tom Burgess, Executive Director, Progressive Policy Unit;

Zoe Matthews, Strategic Advisor, Friends, Families and Travellers;

Susie Ventris-Field, Chief Executive, Welsh Centre for International Affairs;

Anny Malinen, Co-Director, Research for Action;

Joel Benjamin, Campaigner, Debt Resistance UK;

Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries, National Education Union;

Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Director, Jubilee Debt Campaign;

Asad Rehman, Executive Director, War on Want;

Jennifer Nadel, Co-founder, Compassion in Politics;

Martin Drewry, Director, Health Poverty Action;

Jackie Longworth, Chair, Fair Play South West;

Dr Faiza Shaheen, Director, Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS);

Louise King, Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), part of Just for Kids Law;

Guppi Bola, Interim Director, Medact;

Sarah Yiannoullou, Managing Director, National Survivor User Network;

Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now;

Dr Tomaso Ferrando, Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School;

James Kenrick, CEO, Youth Access;

The Collective Staff of Plumstead Community Law Centre;

Alisdair Cameron, Co-director, ReCoCo;

Pete Richie, Executive Director, Nourish Scotland;

Howard Reed, Director, Landman Economics;

Northern Ireland Council for Racial Equality;

Peter Kumar, Chair, Discrimination Law Association;

Dr Thembi Mutch, University of Sussex;

Roosje Saalbrink, Policy and Advocacy Manager – Women’s Economic Rights, Womankind Worldwide; and

Liz Lockey, Co-ordinator, York: Human Rights City Network.

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