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UN Poverty Envoy Slams Universal Credit and Sanctions Regime.

Image result for Jaywick meeting UN rapporteur

UN Rapporteur on Human Rights and Poverty in Jaywick, Essex (Ipswich delegation in Second Row….)

While Esther McVey snuggles up with a wheel-barrow full of her leaving prezzies:

Unicorn Poo

The UN envoy has issued this initial report on his visit to the UK.

UK austerity has inflicted ‘great misery’ on citizens, UN says

Poverty envoy says callous policies driven by political desire for social re-engineering


 ‘I’m scared to eat sometimes’

 Women reveal impact of cuts

 Children tell UN: ‘It’s unfair’

The UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies driven by a political desire to undertake social re-engineering rather than economic necessity, the United Nations poverty envoy has found.

Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, ended a two-week fact-finding mission to the UK with a stinging declaration that despite being the world’s fifth largest economy, levels of child poverty are “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”.

About 14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials, he said, citing figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He highlighted predictions that child poverty could rise by 7% between 2015 and 2022, possibly up to a rate of 40%.

“It is patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty,” he said, adding that compassion had been abandoned during almost a decade of austerity policies that had been so profound that key elements of the post-war social contract, devised by William Beveridge more than 70 years ago, had been swept away.


Although the various media stories just breaking underline the general issue of the poverty the UN envoy found one thing stands out: i the thread running through the report’s initial findings is the central role of Universal Credit in creating poverty and misery. 

Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations  Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights London, 16 November 2018

The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, it contains many areas of immense wealth, its capital is a leading centre of global finance, its entrepreneurs are innovative and agile, and despite the current political turmoil, it has a system of government that rightly remains the envy of much of the world.  It thus seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.  And local authorities, especially in England, which perform vital roles in providing a real social safety net have been gutted by a series of government policies.  Libraries have closed in record numbers, community and youth centers have been shrunk and underfunded, public spaces and buildings including parks and recreation centers have been sold off.  While the labour and housing markets provide the crucial backdrop, the focus of this report is on the contribution made by social security and related policies.


Key extracts from the report:

14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line,1 and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%. For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.

But the full picture of low-income well-being in the UK cannot be captured by statistics alone. Its manifestations are clear for all to see. The country’s most respected charitable groups, its leading think tanks, its parliamentary committees, independent authorities like the National Audit Office, and many others, have all drawn attention to the dramatic decline in the fortunes of the least well off in this country. But through it all, one actor has stubbornly resisted seeing the situation for what it is.

The Government has remained determinedly in a state of denial. Even while devolved authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are frantically trying to devise ways to ‘mitigate’, or in other words counteract, at least the worst features of the  government’s benefits policy, Ministers insisted to me that all is well and running according to plan. Some tweaks to basic policy have reluctantly been made, but there has been a determined resistance to change in response to the many problems which so many people at all levels have brought to my attention.



Universal Credit and the other far-reaching changes to the role of government in supporting people in distress are almost always ‘sold’ as being part of an unavoidable program of fiscal ‘austerity’, needed to save the country from bankruptcy. In fact, however, the reforms have almost certainly cost the country far more than their proponents will admit.

No single programme embodies the combination of the benefits reforms and the promotion of austerity programs more than Universal Credit. Although in its initial conception it represented a potentially major improvement in the system, it is fast falling into Universal Discredit.

Social support should be a route out of poverty, and Universal Credit should be a key part of that process. Consolidating six different benefits into one makes good sense, in principle. But many aspects of the design and rollout of the programme have suggested that the Department for Work and Pensions is more concerned with making economic savings and sending messages about lifestyles than responding to the multiple needs of those living with a disability, job loss, housing insecurity, illness, and the demands of parenting. While some surveys suggest certain claimants do have positive experiences with Universal Credit, an increasing body of research makes clear that there are far too many instances in which Universal Credit is being implemented in ways that negatively impact many claimants’ mental health, finances, and work prospects.


In addition to all of the negative publicity about Universal Credit in the UK media and among politicians of all parties, I have heard countless stories from people who told me of the severe hardships they have suffered under Universal Credit. When asked about these problems, Government ministers were almost entirely dismissive, blaming political opponents for wanting to sabotage their work, or suggesting that the media didn’t really understand the system and that Universal Credit was unfairly blamed for problems rooted in the old legacy system of benefits.

The Universal Credit system is designed with a five week delay between when people successfully file a claim and when they receive benefits. Research suggests that this “waiting period,” which actually often takes up to 12 weeks, pushes many who may already be in crisis into debt, rent arrears, and serious hardship, requiring them to sacrifice food or heat.10 Given the delay, which will only be partially mitigated by a recent concession, it is no surprise that the majority of claimants seek “advance payments,” which in turn must be repaid to DWP in relatively short order.

Additionally, debts to DWP and to third-parties can be deducted from already meager Universal Credit payments at a rate much higher than is the case with the older benefit system. While supposedly deductions are capped at a maximum rate of 40% of the standard allowance portion of the payment (which will change to 30% in a year’s time), the Government told me that in fact additional clawbacks can occur. These so-called “Last Resort Deductions” are for matters such as rent, gas, and electricity arrears, if it is judged to be in the best interest of a claimant or their household..



One of the key features of Universal Credit involves the imposition of draconian sanctions, even for infringements that seem minor. Endless anecdotal evidence was presented to the Special Rapporteur to illustrate the harsh and arbitrary nature of some of the sanctions, as well as the devastating effects that resulted from being completely shut out of the benefits system for weeks or months at a time. As the system grows older, some penalties will soon be measured in years.


As I spoke with local authorities and the voluntary sector about their preparations for the future rollout of Universal Credit, I was struck by how much their mobilization resembled the sort of activity one might expect for an impending natural disaster or health epidemic.

Universal Credit has built a digital barrier that effectively obstructs many individuals’ access to their entitlements. Women, older people, people who do not speak English and the disabled are re likely to be unable to overcome this hurdle.

Artificial Intelligence and Threats to Freedom.

The merging of six legacy benefits into one new Universal Credit system aimed at reaching millions of UK citizens is in fact a major automation project. The collection of data via the online application process and interactions with the online journal provide a clear stepping stone for further automation within DWP.

The new institutions currently being set up by the UK government in the area of big data and AI focus heavily on ethics. While their establishment is certainly a positive development, we should not lose sight of the limits of an ethics frame. Ethical concepts such as fairness are without agreed upon definitions, unlike human rights which are law. Government use of automation, with its potential to severely restrict the rights of individuals, needs to be bound by the rule of law and not just an ethical code.

This is also worth taking notice of,

“The United Kingdom’s impending exit from the European Union poses particular risks for people in poverty, but the government appears to be treating this as an afterthought,” said the UN’s expert on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, at the end of a 12-day visit to the country.

Independent.  UN condemns UK government’s ‘mean-spirited and callous approach’ to poorest, in damning report

Written by Andrew Coates

November 16, 2018 at 4:16 pm

38 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on michaelsnaith.


    November 16, 2018 at 4:39 pm

  2. Amber Rudd becomes sixth work and pensions secretary since March 2016

    • Iain Duncan Smith held the role from May 2010 to March 2016
    • Stephen Crabb held the role from March 2016 to July 2016
    • Damian Green held the role from July 2016 to June 2017
    • David Gauke held the role from June 2017 to January 2018
    • Esther McVey held the role from January 2018 until yesterday
    • Today Amber Rudd becomes the new work and pensions secretary

    Stepping Razor Sound Plate System

    November 16, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    • You beat me to it!

      Amber Rudd appointed as work and pensions secretary in return to Theresa May’s cabinet
      Theresa May has appointed Amber Rudd, the former home secretary, as her new work and pensions secretary, while Stephen Barclay will take over as Brexit secretary,

      Ms Rudd will replace Esther McVey, who quit on Wednesday in protest at Ms May’s Brexit deal.

      The former home secretary was forced to resign in April over the Windrush scandal but will return to the Cabinet after just over six months.

      One of her most daunting tasks will be overseeing the roll-out of the controversial Universal Credit policy, which has been heavily criticised from across the political spectrum.


      Andrew Coates

      November 16, 2018 at 5:00 pm

      • The Newshounds are out already!

        Andrew Coates

        November 16, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      • There will be more people on universal credit than Amber Rudd’s majority when the next general election is called. Universal credit claimants could vote her out single-handedly if the chose to although, to be honest, Ms Rudd is just about as moderate and centrist a Tory as you can get despite the Windrush scandal. If she has the time my bet is that she will change universal credit in ways that the Thatcherite Ester McVey would never have imagined.


        November 16, 2018 at 6:41 pm

  3. Shame the DWP job won’t last 6 months unless your IDS. More DWP chaos – We found another 20 sacks of DWP mail & forms in the basement broom cupboard we never use. What shall we do with them Amber? Well hiring a skip will do the job along with the other 120 sacks discovered over the past 6 months. Universal Credit has now gone so chaotic that someone else now has to go. UN Human Rights Breaches Tory failures.

    Stepping Razor Sound Plate System

    November 16, 2018 at 6:41 pm

  4. UN expert tells of disabled people’s ‘horrendous’ evidence on poverty

    DNS – 15th Nov 2018

    The UN expert investigating the government’s record on eradicating poverty has described how he has heard “pretty horrendous” evidence from disabled people while conducting a 12-day factfinding visit to the UK.

    Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, also told Disability News Service (DNS) that the government had not made the progress he would have expected in securing “real equality” for disabled people.

    Read More:

    Stepping Razor Sound Plate System

    November 16, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    • “””””But Alston also told the event – organised by the UK human rights consortium Just Fair and the Human Rights Lawyers Association – that he had been told earlier that day by the government that there had been no austerity.

      Although he later declined to identify to DNS which minister or civil servant had made the comment, he had just described having meetings that day with work and pensions secretary Esther McVey (who resigned from the cabinet this morning), as well as an unnamed work and pensions minister and a junior Treasury minister.

      He said: “I was told today that there isn’t austerity. That government expenditure in almost all areas has gone up steadily in the last 10 years.”””””

      Stepping Razor Sound Plate System

      November 16, 2018 at 7:04 pm

  5. Another dudd at the DWP.May’s government is in tatters,she looks appaling in front of the cameras the tories policies in ruins and taking the country with them.


    November 16, 2018 at 6:57 pm

  6. There is only one reason why the Tory scum deny austerity… Its because they want to carry on with it!


    November 16, 2018 at 10:02 pm

  7. We have some news …

    … three years ago, we knew we had to try to make Ipswich Unemployed Action sustainable by deepening our relationship with our readers. The revenues from our blog had diminished and the technologies that connected us with a global audience had moved advertising money away from news organisations. We knew we needed to find a way to keep our journalism open and accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

    And so, we have an update for you on some good news. Thanks to all the readers who have supported our independent, investigative journalism through contributions, membership or subscriptions, we are starting to overcome the urgent financial situation we were faced with. Today we have been supported by more than a million readers around the world. Our future is starting to look brighter. But we have to maintain and build on that level of support for every year to come, which means we still need to ask for your help.

    Ongoing financial support from our readers means we can continue pursuing difficult stories in the challenging times we are living through, when factual reporting has never been more critical. Ipswich Unemployed Action is editorially independent – our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. This is important because it enables us to challenge the powerful and hold them to account. With your support, we can continue bringing Ipswich Unemployed Action’s independent journalism to the world.

    If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, enjoys it, helps to support it, our future would be so much more secure. For as little as £500, you can support Ipswich Unemployed Action. Thank you.

    Andrew Coates

    November 16, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    • Send money transfers (Nobles or Guineas) to this address (Our Sister Publication).

      C/O PO Box 98555, The Rungrat Rampant, Pedito Street Station, New Crobuzon.

      Andrew Coates

      November 17, 2018 at 10:43 am

      • “For as little as £500, you can support Ipswich Unemployed Action. Thank you”
        Andrew Coates

        That’s rather a big sum to find for those of us on disability benefits my friend.
        Did you perhaps omit a decimal point from that figure.
        £5.00 would be at least manageable for some. ☺


        November 20, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      • A6er, it was one of the little jokers having a laugh…

        Oh my aching sides!

        Andrew Coates

        November 20, 2018 at 6:08 pm

  8. And so it goes:

    Andrew Coates

    November 17, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    • Rudd is not telling any lies though. Transform: [Etymology, Olde Tory; circa 2010]: to change in character or condition. It is a linguistic trick because the audience will assume it means for the better. If it was for the better Rudd would instead say “improve:” Improve: to enhance in value or quality : make better. It is your own mind that is deceiving you. It is like one of the ‘work programme’ providers – Working Links – who used the strap-line “Changing Lives” – they didn’t say in which way though… 😉

      Elmer Fudd

      November 17, 2018 at 1:40 pm

  9. Schoolgirl starves herself to help mum relying on Universal Credit

    Her family find themselves £300 worse off after being forced onto the controversial new benefit and at the same time they no longer qualify for free school meals from the local authority.



    November 17, 2018 at 4:13 pm

  10. Green Party co-leader sums up everything wrong with Universal Credit in a single tweet

    While the government falls apart over Brexit, Universal Credit is in the news again. On the day the disgraced former home secretary Amber Rudd rejoined the Cabinet as work and pensions secretary, the United Nations (UN) slammed Universal Credit in a report on poverty in the UK.

    And though the government might be hoping it slips under the radar as Brexit discussions rumble on, other politicians aren’t letting that happen.



    November 17, 2018 at 4:16 pm

  11. Amber Rudd, disgraced minister becomes minister of disgrace!


    November 17, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    • Not for long I bet!

      Alice Morgan

      November 18, 2018 at 5:33 pm

  12. Mother ‘paid just £6 on universal carcrash handed a leaflet on how to budget’!



    November 18, 2018 at 10:12 am

  13. Mental health: Firms ask PM to deliver on pledge


    Now on the surface this looks like a noble act. The problem is however, businesses dont act that way, everything is a bottom line. So the question is WHATS IN THIS AS YET TO BE DETAILED PROPOSAL by May that businesses cant already practice and needs a regulation to be written.

    “The companies behind the letter argue the promised change in the law would help break the stigma of mental illness at work”. – Well the only stigma that would matter would be owners,managers and supervisors as everyone else could be had for discrimination/bullying and harassment. Don’t need a regulation for that to happen so you know this is a rue, a crock of crap.


    November 18, 2018 at 11:36 am

    • Soon, it will be MANDATORY for us all, working or not, to see a ‘health care professional’ for COMPULSORY checks on our MENTAL HEALTH & WELL-BEING. This is like something out of the old Soviet Union. Those to profit and benefit from this are pushing this crap.

      something didn't survive

      November 18, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      • Never see a ‘mental health professional’ voluntarily. And that includes the Jobcentre. The only time you should be seeing a shrink is if you have been ‘sectioned’ under the Mental Health Act or by Court Order. Stay away from any (mental) health and well-being crap. No matter how innocent it seems – run! Charlatans looking for a ‘diagnosis’, ‘referral’ in order to cash in. Like the cops if they follow you long enough they will find fault with your driving. If you are ‘observed’ long enough you will be ‘diagnosed’ with some ‘condition’ or other.

        The Mad Hatters

        November 18, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      • Alice, as a more candid ‘work coach’ once said “you have to be seen to be doing something”. As you say, it’s all bollocks.


        November 19, 2018 at 8:22 am

      • See someone whose a qualified shrink is never going to happen and even if it did, they can only tell you what they think based purely off other peoples document data, they cant actually say they know as mental health isn’t so easily identified as red spots on the face.
        Unless its a physical disorder like bipolar, its all pseudoscience.
        What your get is actually a work coach as such with a cert saying they attended a brief low level course much like what government did prior to re branding advisors to coaches like they actually know something on par with careers advisors.


        November 20, 2018 at 12:17 pm

  14. Fat track degrees and rising fees.


    Degrees aren’t simple forms of education so much like other fast track qualifications lower down the list, they’re not for most learners who dont have base experience/knowledge.

    So for most school leavers, this is definitely not on the cards when we condense 3/4 years into 2. Even when we talk adults, we are still talking only ones who are academic by nature and if in their field of work, prefer to know the quantum about things rather than surface appearance.
    For employers running apprenticeships this would make those requiring advance level qualifications cheaper and thus more attractive but again with night courses become rare, still not enough for those who want 40 plus physical work and study at no cost on top. Could possibly also work on the 40/50 plus age bracket.

    I would stick a pin in this as its currently more a money spinner than producing whats more important, the product of receiving a greater understanding.


    November 18, 2018 at 11:58 am

    • Depends what subject(s) the degrees are in. Two years is probably too long for a degree in media studies. But would anybody like to be treated by a medical doctor entering the medical profession on the basis of a two year medical degree?

      Alice Morgan

      November 18, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      • it only takes atos staff 6 weeks training to be a medical pro in every field of medicine pmsl 😉


        November 18, 2018 at 5:45 pm

      • It’s funny that, ted because it takes S7EVEN years to train as a GP, and that’s on top of medical school and whatever.


        November 19, 2018 at 7:47 am

      • Medical school is for F5VE years. So at least 12 years + plus whatever training/competences they specialised in before going onto GP training. It is really quite remarkable how quickly the atos pros learn 😀


        November 19, 2018 at 7:50 am

      • Your doctor (GP) is is effect a ‘gatekeeper’. Their purpose is to prevent you receiving treatment (“it’s stress”, “it’s imaginary pains”, “it’s indigestion” i.e. a referral to a specialist (they even get paid a bonus!).
        Of course people have cottoned on now and ‘bypass’ their doctor and head straight for A&E in the fond hope that they will receive treatment before the “indigestion”, nay, impending heart attack kills them. That is why A&E departments are so full.

        And when/if you get to that stage of a hospital appointment you will face more ‘gatekeepers’. You have to fight every stage of the way to receive treatment on the NHS, which is especially difficult when you are unwell.

        With the NHS there is no second opinion. There was a autistic disabled woman who died only the other day from a brain tumour. The consultant diagnosed it as “trapped nerves”. When her parents begged him for an MRI scan to be carried out he walked off. There is one solution though – to go private. And if you can’t afford to go private, well, tough! Only the other day there was a young woman who had only days to live from cancer. Only by able to afford to pay for private tests is she alive today. There are many people alive today who would be dead it they couldn’t afford to ‘go private’.

        Sometimes it is only the honesty of the pathologist who performs the post mortem that gives the game away. If they put, say, primary cause of death as ‘renal failure’ on the death certificate then you know what was really wrong when someone you once knew, and is now dead, was getting batted off by their GP. It is not all ‘Holby City’ and ‘Casualty’ out there. And before anyone says “It ’em evil Tories like innit”. ‘Tis always being the case with the NHS right down through many Governments of different colours.

        Jodie W

        November 19, 2018 at 8:55 am

      • Animals receive better treatment. We took one of our dogs who was acting poorly into the vet. She was operated on and had the tumour removed the very same day.

        The Smiths

        November 19, 2018 at 9:03 am

      • And has now made a full recovery in case you were wondering 🙂

        The Smiths

        November 19, 2018 at 9:06 am

  15. Has anyone been asked for their National Insurance number by a recruitment agency even before they have been offered any work.


    November 19, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    • Yes. Asked for it when registering with several employment agencies looking for work.

      Alice Morgan

      November 20, 2018 at 10:03 am

    • We now live in a culture of a person having to prove their right to work prior to any appointment of work.
      Just use a passport or British driving license, it whines them up no end if you let them explain why first before dropping other documents on them.
      Its called boosting the portfolio to attract businesses when we really want to be discouraging businesses from using them all together. Any employer who cant offer you regular guaranteed work isn’t worth the steam of your pee.
      Start talking about how your down with x amount of agencies and how you want different terms for departure to cover the time another agency is offering better rates, more work so you need to jump ship at a moments notice, even after agreeing to go to a job but as yet haven’t started it.
      Also say no to your personal data leaving UK jurisdiction. Tell them change this, change that and we have a mutual agreement of contract. They wont of course but there is nothing DWP can do about a claimant not signing with an agency over a contract dispute. Also the claimant does not have to detail to DWP what that contract dispute is.


      November 20, 2018 at 12:32 pm

  16. Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating!.


    November 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm

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