West­min­ster elite ‘should travel UK to see poverty’

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News - EX­CLU­SIVE BY KEIR MUDIE Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

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.”

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