Westminster elite ‘should travel UK to see poverty’
POLITICIANS should step out of the Westminster bubble to get a true picture of the effect of austerity on the UK, says the author of a UN report into poverty.
Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty, visited nine towns and cities last November.
Mr Alston said he was moved by stories he heard as he talked to hundreds of people. He urged politicians to do the same – particularly after his findings were criticised by the Department for Work and Pensions.
He said: “It would be good if not only the politicians but also the civil servants were forced to go out and see the situation people are in.
“I don’t know how one could come out with the statement the DWP did, saying that the people of the UK are ‘extremely happy’ and that my figures are fantasy. I can give them any one of 1,000 towns where that’s not the case. Things are grim for an awful lot of people.”
Mr Alston had said in his report: “For almost one in every two children to be poor in 21st century Britain would not just be a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster rolled into one.”
He said austerity had seen 14 million people living in poverty, record levels of hunger and homelessness, falling life expectancy and reductions in policing.
The Government said the report “paints a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty” and is a “barely believable documentation of Britain, based on a tiny period of time spent here”.
Mr Alston, a human rights lawyer, responded: “I earlier accused the Government of being in a state of denial.
“The DWP statement takes that to new heights.”