Recently there was an extremely damning report published by the United Nations committee on economic and cultural rights. It confirmed the Uk governments austerity measures are indeed in breach of their obligations to the human rights of citizens living in the uk. Although mentioned in the mainstream press, it hasn’t been given enough attention, however I do feel that it is time that we spoke about this, it’s am important issue that should not be swept under the carpet.
The report considers a number of areas, all of which are drastically important to our everyday life, and the life of the poorest. It covers factors such as, foodbanks, unemployment rates, the housing crisis, mental health care and discrimination against migrants and the disabled.
In its report the committee reminds the government of their obligations and actively calls upon them to make the changes required. Sadly I fear that this has fallen upon deaf ears, as no official acknowledgement has been made, nor of a rush to tackle these issues.
The United Nations committee is “seriously concerned” about the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures forced upon the poorest in the uk are having to already disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups. To put it simply, people are suffering beyond what is necessary, I hold the strong belief that it is not necessary at all. These are people who already had a bad deal in life and therefore can see no way of getting out of the situation that they are in. Many are ill, disabled, people with children and single parents. These people are repeatedly being targeted time and time again, it’s an endless circle of suffering and poverty.
It also emphasised problems with welfare reform. Their words are that they are “deeply concerned” about the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in social security benefits that are constantly being made. These include the reduction of the household benefit cap, the four year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. They go on to say that this will deeply affect “women, children, persons with disabilities, low income families and families with two or more children. Despite the constant demonisation by the press, labelling these very people scroungers, they are suffering and children are suffering. So much so that schools are concerned. This used to be unheard of.
It goes on to tackle other issues such as the unemployment rate, the high incidence of part time, zero hour contract work, people forced into precarious self employment, the “persistent discrimination” against migrant workers, the national minimum wage, the new trade union act, limited availability of affordable childcare, the increased risk of poverty for disabled people, ethnic people, single parents and families with children. The lack of affordable accessible housing, the significant rise in homelessness and the ever increasing university tuition fees.
However I would like to focus on one issue, the issue of sanctions relating to benefits and the absence of due process and access to justice for those affected by a benefit sanction. Sanctions are handed out far too freely by the governments DWP workers, they are given to mostly innocent people who are trying their best and are quiet often not fit for work. Claimants aren’t given any due process and often don’t have an explanation for a sanction awarded. They will often go to their bank and see that their regular payment has not been paid. They will then not have any access to any justice, except for the over worked and under paid staff at their local citizens advice bureau, a welfare rights office or equivalent. Not everyone is so lucky and many don’t have access to the above, nor do they know how to challenge a sanction. The DWP do not inform them of how to do this and many just take themselves off the system. Some can’t take anymore and commit suicide, some are so hungry and cold that they die of related illnesses.
The report is indeed damning and is a very sad indictment of how the government treats the most vulnerable in society. They have continued to punish the most vulnerable leaving those responsible able to continue to gain massive wealth at the cost of the poorest.
It’s easy to become distracted by all the news about the referendum, the Tory party leadership and the in fighting in the Labour Party. But what I can say is this. We need to stand united as a country and continue to highlight the fact that these very issues exist, that they are bad enough to be condemned by the United Nations, a fact that we should be ashamed of. We need to educate others, share this report, lobby MPs, help those who are affected and who are suffering. Let’s show this government that we are all in this together and we will not support acts like this anymore.