Vulnerable hit ‘disproportionately’ by UK austerity measures, UN warns

A report by the UN's economic, social and cultural rights committee called on the government to reviews its policies and reverse welfare cuts

The UN report also criticised the government for failing to address the rising reliance on food banks. Photo: Lucy Young/REX/Shutterstock
The UN report also criticised the government for failing to address the rising reliance on food banks. Photo: Lucy Young/REX/Shutterstock

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.

Other recommendations

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.”

6 Responses to Vulnerable hit ‘disproportionately’ by UK austerity measures, UN warns

  1. Tom J July 1, 2016 at 9:58 am #

    People need to wake up and smell the coffee. Following Brexit the governor of the Bank of England said that Mr Carney said that the Bank of England ‘stood ready to provide more than £250bn of additional funds if required’ (www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36673005)

    I thought we didn’t have a penny to spare and austerity was the only option?

    People need to realise that To the rich Cameron is a god. To name just three examples of why; Bought shares in Royal Mail? Have some free money the following day as we grossly undervalue them to begin with. Got shares in G4S? Don’t worry about the Olympics and youth prisons- we’ll continue to grant contracts and ensure that the share price is not hit. Bought shares in Virgin and Serco? We’ll give parts of the NHS to them- don’t worry if they mess up parts of their contract and ambulances don’t arrive- we’ve given them win-win contracts.

    Austerity and privatisation is a political choice and a very effective way of funnelling money upwards and further widening inequality. Do what you can. Join your trade union and an anti austerity political party to end this madness.

  2. Ann Osmoond July 15, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    What about us 1950s women who’s pension they have stolen. We should be retired at 60.

  3. Andro Joiner July 16, 2016 at 5:02 pm #

    On the 25th April MPs voted not to meet the urgent needs of unaccompanied refugee children, (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/25/tories-vote-against-accepting-3000-child-refugees). In doing so, they appear to have voted not to protect them from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and exploitation and not to allow them to join their families in the UK..

    That was so shocking that the Alice Barker Trust wrote to ask UNICEF if the outcome was illegal. UNICEF asserts that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has never been integrated with UK law and there are no legal remedies available in the UK or elsewhere. That is in the process of being checked through the UN..

    The UNCRC was ratified by the UK in 1991 and in doing so, it has a legal obligation to apply its legal principles to UK laws and have effective remedies for breaches. If those really have not been put in place, the Alice Barker Trust has called for urgent action and to do so in memory of Jo Cox MP., who was so brutally murdered on the 16th June in Birstall in West Yorkshire. She spoke in the 25th April debate, (https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-04-25/debates/16042535000002/ImmigrationBill)

    The needs of refugee children are exceptionally urgent but will MPs now act with nothing other than exceptional urgency or go on their summer holidays? There are strong clues in the published letters below, on child abuse and failures of social workers, MPs et al.

    Governments have created culture of cover-up on abuse
    10.03.2015
    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/letters/march-10-letters-governments-have-created-culture-of-cover-up-on-abuse-1-7147641

    Culture of cowardice deters public sector whistleblowers
    09.01.2015
    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/letters/culture-of-cowardice-deters-public-sector-whistleblowers-1-7041315
    (The suggested title was ‘No urgent law to stop and prevent abuse’)

    Shame those who failed to act on abuse
    29.08.2014
    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/letters/shame-those-who-failed-to-act-on-abuse-1-6811354
    (The suggested title was ‘Serious abuse requires serious penalties for all public officials’)

  4. June nichols July 16, 2016 at 11:41 pm #

    Benefits should b reversed to what they were befor.the poor+vunerable shouldnt have 2suffer in this dispicable way.people have been forced 2move out of their homes+downsize because thwy cant afford bedroom tax.this is totally well iut of order+has cause misery+undue stress for people.im so ashamed of this torie goverment, it beggers beleif.the goverment have treated the poor,disabled+vunerable like scum.how appalling+disrespectful to the people of britain.we need change now befor more people die.we all need to stand together on this+shout our veiws out so this message gets across to the goverment we will not tolerate any more cuts+abuse from this goverment.

  5. paul chalmers July 19, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

    i believe the tories should stand trial for putting british citizens in a position to either heat or eat also social house cleansing forcing people out of their homes due to rent increase
    also the deaths of british citizens in a situation relied on the welfare state
    and the millions of british citizens who worked and paid for there stamp and pension contributions
    who now can not claim if needed because of welfare changes

    we are currently seeing tony blair trying to be put to trial for a false war he is responsible for
    the same should be done for david cameron and ian duncan smith also george osbourne for wefare changes and austerity caused by banks and government not the british citizens