The sound of Charles Dickens as he turns in his grave.
“The United Nations has launched an investigation into poverty and human rights in the UK which will examine the impact of the austerity policies of Theresa May and David Cameron over the past eight years.
The inquiry will be led by Prof Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, who angered the Donald Trump administration this month when he concluded after a similar visit to the US that the White House’s contempt for the poor was driving “cruel policies”.
The fact-finding trip is scheduled for this autumn and will be the first visit to a western European country by a representative of the UN’s rapporteur’s office since a trip to Ireland in 2011. Alston’s most recent inquiries into extreme poverty have taken him to the US, China, Saudi Arabia and Ghana.
“The UK has gone through a period of pretty deep budget cuts first under the coalition and then the Conservatives and I am interested to see what the outcome of that has been,” Alston told the Guardian. “I am also interested to look at what seems to be a renewed debate on all sides about the need to increase spending at least for some of the key programmes.”
He said the challenges facing the UK were different to the US, where he has concluded Trump’s policies were “tailor-made to maximise inequality and to plunge millions of working Americans, and those unable to work, into penury”.
Alston said: “In the UK, things are at a different place where there is no great budget surplus to be mobilised. Welfare cuts have taken place but there is now an interesting debate on whether they have gone too far and what measures need to be taken to shore up the NHS and other programmes.”
Alston has not yet determined exactly what he will focus on and will shortly invite submissions from groups who want to suggest matters for him to consider. They could include housing squalour, insecurity at work, in-work poverty, mental health and political disenfranchisement. …”