UN report compares Tory welfare policies to creation of workhouses

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12/07/2019 by socialistfight

Extracts from The Guardian, Robert Booth, and The Mirror, 22/5/19

Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty

A leading United Nations poverty expert has compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warned that unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

In his final report on the impact of austerity on human rights in the UK, Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, accused ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of policies, including the rollout of universal credit, since 2010. He accused them of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population” and warned that worse could be yet to come for the most vulnerable, who face “a major adverse impact” if Brexit proceeds. He said leaving the EU was “a tragic distraction from the social and economic policies shaping a Britain that it’s hard to believe any political parties really want”.

The “endlessly repeated” mantra about rising employment overlooks that “close to 40% of children are predicted to be living in poverty two years from now, 16% of people over 65 live in relative poverty and millions of those who are in work are dependent upon various forms of charity to cope”, he said.

Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, said in November she was “disappointed to say the least by the extraordinary political nature” of Alston’s language after his tour of places including Newcastle, Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Jaywick (seaside village in Essex), and  London. Alston replied in his 21-page final report that there was an “almost complete disconnect” between what ministers and the public saw. The impact of austerity was obvious to anyone who opened their eyes, he said.

In his most barbed swipe at Rudd and her predecessors in charge of welfare, he said:

“It might seem to some observers that the department of work and pensions has been tasked with designing a digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens.”

He said he had met people who had sold sex for money and joined gangs to avoid destitution.

The report slams the government’s austerity programme, with criticisms of “shocking” rises in the use of food banks and rough sleeping, falling life expectancy for some, the “decimation” of legal aid, the denial of benefits to the severely disabled, falling teachers’ salaries in real terms and the impoverishment of single mothers and people with mental illness.

Alston said austerity had:

“deliberately gutted” local authorities, shrinking library, youth, police and park services to the extent that it was not surprising there were “unheard-of levels of loneliness and isolation”.

The work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd loges a formal complaint with the UN … for telling the truth!

The work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, plans to lodge a formal complaint with the UN about the damning report on austerity in Britain by its special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston.

Rudd will argue that Alston is politically biased and did not do enough research. The minister is seeking guidance from the Foreign Office on the best way to respond after Alston compared her department’s welfare policies to the creation of Victorian workhouses.

Alston quoted the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes to warn that unless austerity was ended and welfare cuts were reversed, millions of poorer Britons faced lives that would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

“Thomas Hobbes observed long ago, such an approach condemns the least well-off to lives that are ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’,” he said. “As the British social contract slowly evaporates, Hobbes’ prediction risks becoming the new reality.”

2 July KUWG picket of the Metro newspaper in Derry street near Kensington High Street station

Charities, MPs and benefits staff slam Tory ministers for blowing public cash on a “spin” campaign for their scandal-hit benefit system

The nine-week PR campaign in Metro launched on the same day as DWP policies were compared to Victorian workhouse culture in a searing report by a UN Rapporteur. Hours after it launched, MPs heard Universal Credit is pushing women towards selling sex to get as little as £5 for an electric bill.

Figures released last week show 14% of all new UC claims are still not paid on time and in full. Campaigners say the way it is paid can worsen domestic abuse. DWP Secretary Amber Rudd herself admitted in February that UC had, in the past, driven some people to food banks. The advertising campaign states: “A lot has been written about Universal Credit recently – not all of it correct, sadly”

One says it’s a “myth” that “you have to wait 5 weeks to get any money on Universal Credit”, when in fact, Jobcentres can “urgently pay you an advance.” However, the advert fails to spell out that these advances are taken out of future benefits and have to be paid back over several months.

In another case, the advert says it’s a “myth” that “Jobcentre staff want to stop your benefit payments”. It says in fact, “they’ll support you all the way. Fewer than 3 in every 100 UC claimants are having payments reduced by sanctions”.

The advert fails to mention what this ‘3 in 100’ stat amounts to – more than 400,000 sanctions have been dished out to people on Universal Credit, 20,000 lasting longer than six months. Sanctions over six months are now set to be banned.

Foodbank charity the Trussell Trust seized #UniversalCreditUncovered hashtag to launch its own nine-week campaign of “facts”. The charity tweeted: “Instead of spending time on spin, they should tackle the reasons why so many people waiting for #UniversalCredit are forced to #foodbanks.

The PCS union, which represents workers on Universal Credit, said claimants have “suffered terribly as a result of this policy”. General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Ministers should hang their heads in shame for wasting money on a propaganda campaign trying to breathe life into failed project which needs to be scrapped.” ▲

KUWG Model Resolution: The PCS must stop cruel Sanctioning!

Passed with none against but one abstention by Brent Trades Union Council on 26-6-19

THERE IS NOW A MASSIVE VOLUME of evidence of the cruel and inhumane treatment, damaging to health and causing death, that social security sanctions are causing.

Sanctions have no place in a civilised society, and it is a reasonable expectation that DWP workers who are members of DWP trade unions, i.e. the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) should not bring harm upon us by implementing sanctions.

We also know that significant numbers of DWP workers have left their jobs or retired early because of their distress at being instructed to carry out sanctioning actions. It is indisputable that the mental health of such workers will be seriously put at risk when they sanction claimants, especially when the outcome is personal injury or death.

We call on PCS members to refuse to serve the DWP in harming us. We don’t want individuals to put themselves at risk of disciplinary action. What is required is collective action to be taken by a trade union.

We therefore resolve to invite and to urge, all union branches, Labour party bodies and others to join us in issuing, as a matter of urgency, an open letter to the General Secretary and DWP Group President of the PCS union.

We ask them to campaign amongst their DWP members and ballot them to collectively refuse to carry out any duties connected with sanctioning of social security claimants. We ask for this to be implemented without delay. ▲

Rebecca Riddell,  Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights
 

The United Nations: ‘Great Honour’ to get KUWG support

On Mon, May 27, 2019 at 9:13 PM

Kilburn Unemployed <kilburnuwg@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear Rebecca

Thank you for forwarding the Final Report to KUWG. We discussed it, and the disgraceful responses from Amber Rudd and the media, at our last weekly meeting, and it was agreed for me to send a message of support to your offices. We have been helping unemployed people for about 10 years now, engaged with other organisations who also put in submissions, and so concur with your findings. We have experience of the DWP intimidating claimants, and now see they are trying to intimidate the United Nations! One of our mottos is “We are more Angry than Frightened”, and so overcome our fears by still protesting, and like yourselves, exposing the TRUTH. Please keep up the Good Work!

In Solidarity

CJ Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

From: Rebecca Riddell <rebecca.riddell@nyu.edu>

(Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights) Date: Tue, 28 May 2019 at 16:11

Subject: Re: Stupid attacks on UN by British DWP & Media

To: Kilburn Unemployed <kilburnuwg@gmail.com>

Greetings,

Many thanks for your kind email. This message of support is much appreciated and well-received. I will share it with our team and the Special Rapporteur. It’s a great honour for us if our work resonates with and can be useful to those who, like KUWG, have been working tirelessly on these issue for years. If it’s not too much trouble to share with your office how much your words have meant to our small team, it would be greatly appreciated.

Sending warm wishes.

Very best,   Rebecca

(Rebecca Riddell,  Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights )

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