Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty who is an expert in human rights law based at New York University spent 12 days touring the UK and found that “levels of child poverty are staggering and 1.5 million people were destitute at some point in 2017”. His statements raised the hackles of ministers of state.
Presenting the initial results of his investigation at a press conference in London, Alston blamed cuts and reforms of state benefit payments and the closure of public facilities for the poverty of 14 million people. He reported that
– 14 million people – a fifth of the UK population – live in poverty
– Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials
– Child poverty is predicted to rise 7% between 2015 and 2022
– Homelessness is up 60% since 2010
– A 49% real terms reduction in funding for local governments since 2010
Alston said that Brexit poses ‘particular risk’ to British people in poverty .
Prof Alston’s report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next year.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We completely disagree with this analysis.”
She said that household incomes have “never been higher”, income inequality has fallen and there are one million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared with 2010.