Girl thermostat on radiator

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has published his final report on his visit to the UK. Hard-hitting doesn’t begin to summarise the report. It’s an absolutely damning inditement on nearly a decade of austerity. Here is just a flavour of the report from its introduction:

“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 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.”

Whilst staying well away from party politics, it nonetheless a call for radical shift away from the current policies which are doing so much harm and towards a more inclusive economy and fair welfare system – something that the Co-operative Party has long called for.

It’s an impressively concise piece of work. In just 21 pages, the report covers the importance of measuring poverty accurately, why jobs alone are insufficient to tackle poverty, the dismantling of the welfare state, homelessness, benefit cuts, Universal Benefit, legal aid cuts, local government cuts, privatisation, and Brexit. What is particularly impressive about the report is how the Rapporteur backs the emotion of lived experience with hard facts:

“People said they had to choose either to eat or heat their homes. Children are showing up at school with empty stomachs, and schools are collecting food and sending it home because teachers know their students will otherwise go hungry…. Food bank use increased almost fourfold between 2012–2013 and 2017–2018. and there are now over 2,000 food banks in the United Kingdom, up from just 29 at the height of the financial crisis.”

A landmark report, there is much that policy makers, representatives or campaigners can take from it. It’s also a call to action to address the many challenges identified in the report. Dealing with just one aspect of the report, food insecurity, we feel confident that our food justice campaign’s aims do address the challenges the report outlines. Comprising practical measures that councils can take including designating a lead member for food poverty and developing a food action plan, and action at a national level by embedding a commitment to “zero hunger by 2030” in the UK law, alongside distinctive approaches in Scotland and Wales.