A UN committee has delivered a damning verdict on the impact of government’s austerity measures on vulnerable groups.
The report by the economic, social and cultural rights committee said cuts made to the welfare state since 2010 had damaged people’s right to an adequate standard of living and called on the government to review its policies.
The committee said it was seriously concerned about the “disproportionate adverse impact” austerity measures were having on disadvantaged and marginalised groups.
The report criticised:
- The impact of austerity measures on disadvantaged and marginalised groups.
- ‘Persistent serious shortcomings’ in the care and treatment of older people.
- The lack of sufficient resources for mental health services.
- The lack of available and affordable housing.
- The significant rise in homelessness and reliance on food banks.
Specifically on social care, the committee welcomed the Care Act 2014 but said it ‘remained concerned’ about the care and treatment of older people in the UK, including those with dementia. The government must take all necessary measures to improve care, the report said.
It also highlighted shortcomings in the implementation of the legal duty to ensure ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health. The report said a lack of sufficient resources meant people were not receiving an adequate standard of care.
The committee also raised concerns about changes introduced under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, including the reduction of the household benefit cap, the removal of the spare room subsidy (the bedroom tax) and the use of benefit sanctions. The absence of access to justice for those affected as a result of cuts to legal aid provision was also highlighted.
It urged the government to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the impact of these measures on disadvantaged and marginalised groups, particularly women, children, people with disabilities, and low-income families with two or more children.
The committee made a series of recommendations to government, including:
- Address the housing deficit and ensure local authorities are allocated enough funding to reduce the ‘exceptionally high’ levels of homelessness.
- Develop a national strategy to address the rising levels of food insecurity.
- Increase the level of support provided to asylum seekers.
- Review the implementation of the national strategy on gender-based violence, particularly against women and girls with disabilities.
Simon Duffy, director of the Centre for Welfare Reform, said: “The past six years of austerity have seen the UK government intentionally diminish the rights of its own citizens.
“The Centre for Welfare Reform welcomes the news that the United Nations has strongly criticised the government for these policies – policies that have harmed immigrants, asylum seekers, disabled people and those living in poverty.
“There is no good reason for these ongoing attacks; instead it seems likely that these groups have been targeted simply because they are convenient scapegoats for problems they did not cause.”