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Protesters march against austerity in London in June 2015. (Photo: Jason/flickr/cc)

UN Officially Declares that UK's Austerity Policies Violate Human Rights

'It is clear that since 2010, ministers were fully aware that their policies would hit lower income groups hardest'

Nadia Prupis

The UK government's austerity policies violate international human rights, and growing inequality in the nation is cause for "serious concerns," a damning new report by the United Nations has found.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights found that six years after the Conservative party took power and extended the previous Coalition's stringent economic practices, UK residents have faced an increased reliance on food banks, rising unemployment rates, a housing crisis, and growing racism and discrimination, among other impacts.

Women, minorities, young people, and people with disabilities were disproportionately affected, the authors said.

The UK government is failing "to meet their obligation to mobilize the maximum available resources for the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights," the report states in the UN's first review of the Conservative party's impact since it came to power in 2009.

The agency added that it was "deeply concerned" about "the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits," which mostly affected "disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children."

Meanwhile, the new living wage of £7.20 ($9.60) per hour was still too low for the cost of living. The committee "is concerned at the high incidence of part-time work, precarious self-employment, temporary employment, and [unreliable] contracts...particularly affecting women," the report states.

Simon Duffy, director of the Centre on Welfare Reform, who contributed to the report, said of the findings: "The past six years of austerity have seen the UK government intentionally diminish the rights of its own citizens.... There is no good reason for these ongoing attacks; instead it seems likely that these groups have been targeted simply because they are convenient scapegoats for problems they did not cause."

Jamie Burton, chairman of the charity group Just Fair, which helped coordinate the research, added, "The UN's verdict is clear and indisputable.... It is clear that since 2010, ministers were fully aware that their policies would hit lower income groups hardest and deepen the suffering of many already facing disadvantage without offering any long term gain for the pain they inflicted."

Duffy added a sobering reminder that in the tumultuous wake of the Brexit vote, the government "is now in chaos and its future leadership is uncertain. Sadly it is unlikely that any immediate change in leadership will lead to the recognition of the UK's human rights obligations."


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