by Louisa McGeehan CPAG
Director of Policy, Rights and Advocacy
You may have seen reports of the recent visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. At the end of his ten-day visit around the country, Professor Philip Alston found that the poverty he had observed was unjust and, in his opinion, contrary to British values. He described the UK’s high child poverty rate as “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one”.
Amongst the large number of people that he and his team met who were struggling to make ends meet, Professor Alston reported people dependent on food banks, homeless people and children without a safe place to sleep, children growing up in poverty unsure of their future and young people turning to gangs as a way out of destitution.
He also spoke of the tremendous resilience, strength and generosity he came across, with neighbours supporting one another, councils seeking creative solutions, and charities stepping in to fill holes in government services.
Warning of the harm poverty has caused to British society, Professor Alston argued that British compassion has been replaced by a “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach …”
The Rapporteur’s findings should be a wake-up call for the Government. He took issue with Government for remaining “determinedly in a state of denial” but pointed to the positive news, highlighted frequently by CPAG, that poverty is not inevitable, and that many problems could be fixed if the Government were to acknowledge the problems and consider some of the recommendations put forward.
You can read the full UN report of Professor Alston’s findings here