Money Wellness
Sign outside a foodbank
category iconcost of living
calendar icon07 Nov 2023

‘Unacceptable poverty levels’ in the UK ‘are violating international law’

The United Nations’ poverty envoy has said poverty levels in the UK are “simply not acceptable”.

In an interview with the Guardian, Olivier De Schutter described universal credit payments of £85 a week for single adults aged 25 and over as “grossly insufficient”.

Call for higher benefits payments

De Schutter is due to visit the UK this week, when he will urge the government to increase welfare spending.

His predecessor, Philip Alston, previously accused the Conservative government of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population”.

De Schutter claims the situation is now worse than ever.

Figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation show last year, 3.8 million people in the UK – including one million children - were classed as destitute. That means they couldn’t afford to meet their basic needs to stay warm, dry, clean and fed.

Government denial

The government insists it hasn’t broken international law, claiming absolute poverty has fallen during its time in power.

Violation of human rights

But De Schutter said:

“It’s simply not acceptable that we have more than a fifth of the population in a rich country such as the UK at risk of poverty today.”

He added:

“If you look at the price of housing, electricity, the very high levels of inflation for food items over the past couple of years, I believe that the £85 a week for adults is too low to protect people from poverty, and that is in violation of article nine of the international covenant on economic, social [and cultural] rights. That is what human rights law says.”

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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