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HomenewsUN rapporteur clashes with No10 after slamming UK benefits handouts as 'grossly...

UN rapporteur clashes with No10 after slamming UK benefits handouts as ‘grossly insufficient’ and saying poverty is ‘getting worse’

A UN rapporteur has clashed with Downing Street after slamming the UK’s benefits as ‘grossly insufficient’.

Olivier De Schutter slammed universal credit payments of £85 a week for single adults over 25, describing the welfare system as a ‘leaking bucket’.

He said it was ‘simply not acceptable’ that a fifth of the population was ‘at risk of poverty’, saying the situation had become ‘worse’ since a similar warning from his predecessor five years ago.

But the PM’s spokesman dismissed the critique, saying evidence showed people were better off in full-time work than on handouts. 

Mr De Shutter, the UN’s poverty envoy, launched his salvo at the government in an interview with the Guardian. 

Olivier De Schutter slammed universal credit payments of £85 a week for single adults over 25, describing the welfare system as a 'leaking bucket' Olivier De Schutter slammed universal credit payments of £85 a week for single adults over 25, describing the welfare system as a 'leaking bucket'

Olivier De Schutter slammed universal credit payments of £85 a week for single adults over 25, describing the welfare system as a ‘leaking bucket’

The PM's spokesman dismissed the critique, saying evidence showed people were better off in full-time work than on handouts (Rishi Sunak pictured visiting Norfolk today) The PM's spokesman dismissed the critique, saying evidence showed people were better off in full-time work than on handouts (Rishi Sunak pictured visiting Norfolk today)

The PM’s spokesman dismissed the critique, saying evidence showed people were better off in full-time work than on handouts (Rishi Sunak pictured visiting Norfolk today)

‘It’s simply not acceptable that we have more than a fifth of the population in a rich country such as the UK at risk of poverty today,’ he said, pointing to data showing that 14.4million people were in relative poverty in 2021-22. 

‘The policies in place are not working or not protecting people in poverty, and much more needs to be done for these people to be protected.’

Mr De Schutter said the UK had signed an international agreement to provide social protection for an adequate standard of living.

‘If you look at the price of housing, electricity, the very high levels of inflation for food items over the past couple of years, I believe that the £85 a week for adults is too low to protect people from poverty, and that is in violation of article nine of the international covenant on economic, social [and cultural] rights,’ he said. 

‘That is what human rights law says.’

Mr De Schutter said hiking universal credit was ‘the single most important step that the UK could meet towards meeting its international obligations’.

He said that since his predecessor Philip Alston warned in 2018 of ‘systematic immiseration’ of Brits ‘things have got worse’.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride is currently reviewing how much benefits should go up by next year Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride is currently reviewing how much benefits should go up by next year

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride is currently reviewing how much benefits should go up by next year

Mr De Schutter did say that the problems were reflected in other countries.

‘One common realisation is that we need to stop thinking that economic growth will lift all boats,’ he said. 

‘We’ve seen in most OECD countries that growth of GDP has been going hand in hand with increasing inequalities and a failure to reduce levels of both relative and absolute poverty.’ 

The No10 spokesman said: ‘We simply don’t agree. We know that households are at least £6,000 a year better off in full-time work than out on benefits. 

‘And our record on this is clear – there are 1.7million fewer people in absolute poverty and there are almost 700,000 fewer children growing up in workless households since 2010.

‘And we have taken unprecedented levels of support post-pandemic in response to high inflation, not least paying half of people’s energy bill.’

Downing Street

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