“Evidence to UN highlights extreme poverty in UK”

The sixth richest economy in the world.

“A disabled former soldier who said he is so poor that he lost 16kg (2st 7lb) due to a lack of food is among the contributors to the first United Nations investigation into extreme poverty into the UK.

Alexander Tiffin, a 30-year old from the Scottish Highlands, sent a diary of his life on universal credit to Prof Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, who is coming to Britain in November.

The eminent international human rights lawyer called for submissions from anyone in the UK to establish “the most significant human rights violations experienced by people living in poverty and extreme poverty in the UK”. He is interested in the impact of austerity, universal credit, the advent of computer algorithms making decisions on welfare matters, and Brexit.

Anyone taking part has been asked to set out in no more than 2,500 words what is happening, where he should go and what he should look at. He has set a deadline of 14 September for submissions and academics, thinktanks and charities are among those drafting responses.

The visit is set to be politically controversial. Alston conducted a similar exercise in the US earlier this year, which resulted in public clashes with the Trump administration. In the UK, he wants to know “to what extent austerity has been necessary” and its impact on public services including police, firefighting and libraries.

He will also consider how Brexit might affect people living in poverty. Alston defines extreme poverty as “a lack of income, a lack of access to basic services, and social exclusion”. …

Tiffin’s diary of life on universal credit is among the most striking contributions so far. The wheelchair user told Alston he is living off £95.35 a fortnight in universal credit payments and that after paying for his electricity and gas, fuel for his adapted car, broadband connection, TV licence and baby milk for his youngest son, he is left with £10.50 for two weeks.

“At one time in February, I had no food at all for two weeks,” he wrote. “I probably ate on less than a quarter of the days in that month. I just had nothing. I lost two and a half stone … my hair has started falling out and my teeth are loose due to a lack of vitamin intake.”

On 8 May, he wrote: “I wanted to be able to make myself some sandwiches, so I bought a loaf of bread for 45p and a small block of cheese for £1.72. This left me with £3.30 [with 10 days to go until the next payment]. I must admit I felt bad after buying it as I shouldn’t have wasted the money.”

Tiffin has suffered from mental health problems. He is a Muslim convert and was recently admonished by a court for threatening to kill unbelievers. Police considered he was “an idiot” rather than a terrorist and he was not punished. He said the incident occurred when he was going through a complete breakdown. …”