“Cuts to public services and benefits that disproportionately affect the least well-off, single parents and disabled people put the government in breach of its human rights obligations, a study for the UK equalities watchdog has found.
Echoing the recent findings of the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, the study concluded the scale of the cuts and their lopsided impact on the most disadvantaged were a policy choice, rather than inevitable.
“There were a lot of choices, and the government chose to balance the budget on the backs of the poorest,” said the study’s co-author, Jonathan Portes, a professor of economics at King’s College London.
The study examined the impact of spending on the NHS, social care, police, transport, housing and education between 2010 and 2015 on various groups in England, Scotland and Wales. It also looked at the expected impact of spending plans for these sectors to 2021-22, and tax and benefit changes.
On a per-head basis, reductions since 2010 were significantly higher in England – equivalent to about 18% – than in Wales (5.5%) and Scotland (1%), in part because the devolved governments chose to mitigate some effects of the cuts, it said.
The poorest 20% of people in England lost an average of 11% of their incomes as a result of austerity, compared with zero losses for the top fifth of households.
Measured in cash terms, total spending on public services will have fallen by £1,500 per household in England by 2021-22, compared with just under £500 in Wales and £200 in Scotland, according to the study commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. …”