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UN Slams Tories Over Human Rights Abuses In UK Welfare Acts

June 29, 2016

While the country is entrenched in the mire of the EU referendum fallout, the Tories have just been slammed by the United Nations (UN) – for human rights abuses.

But not abroad. Here, in the UK.

As The Canary previously reported, on the 15 and 16 June the UN Human Rights committee on economic, social and cultural affairs publicly reported its questioning of the Tories, after more than two years of evidence-gathering concerning the impact of their policies on society.

report was submitted by the UK government, from which the final conclusions and recommendations, which were released on Monday night, have been drawn. And the UN pulls no punches in its assessment.

Failed policies

The criticisms are overarching, and in some cases staggering – covering nearly every area of government policy. It appears the UN have three levels of disdain: “regret”, “concerned” and “seriously or deeply concerned” – and the latter, worryingly, comes up relating to two specific areas.

The committee spoke at length about asylum seekers; specifically, that our government is failing them “due to restrictions in accessing employment and the insufficient level of support provided”. It goes further and says that they are, basically, being denied the health care that they are entitled to under international law. The UN also slams the government over its treatment of migrant workers, in terms of exploitation, low pay and health care access – specifically citing the fact the Tories ignored its last set of recommendations.

The government comes under criticism for its sales of weapons to foreign countries and lack of legislation surrounding this. A pertinent issue at present, with the Tories coming under increasing pressure to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who are currently accused of committing war crimes in Yemen.

The UN is also critical of the practices surrounding government-backed private companies’ conduct in foreign countries. This specifically relates to an investigation by Global Justice Now, surrounding the Department for International Development ploughing money into private education companies in Uganda and Kenya – at the cost of their free education systems. It seems the Tories not only want a profit from the UK’s schools, they want it from other countries’ schools as well.

There were numerous other areas in which the Tories came under fire: their failure to tackle tax avoidance; the 2016 Trade Union Act and blacklisting of workers; the reductions in the corporate tax rate; the decimation of the legal aid system; the failure to introduce the 2010 Equality Act in Northern Ireland and the continued illegality of abortion; the gender pay gap; the under-funding of mental health services; worsening of social care for the elderly; the lowly minimum wage; violence against women, and the lack of female representation in high-profile public roles.

However, the most damning indictments and truly staggering ones were surrounding austerity, unemployment, living standards and welfare reforms. And the majority of the barrage of criticisms were aimed at the impact these had on the vulnerable and the disabled.

Forgetting the most vulnerable

In short, criticisms were fired at the Tories over:

  • the number of self-employed, part-time and zero hours contracts jobs, and the effect on marginalised people.
  • the housing crisis in the UK, including the lack of social housing, sky-high rental prices and rogue landlords.
  • the “exceptionally high” levels of homelessness and the Conservatives’ inadequate response to this.
  • the government’s record on education and failure to address inequality affecting pupils attainment levels.
  • a failure to address food poverty and the heavy reliance by millions on food banks.
  • the rising levels of poverty among marginalised groups, and the government’s failure to tackle child poverty.

But perhaps the two most astonishing sections were those dedicated to what the UN described itself as having “seriously” and “deeply” concerned views on – the effects of austerity, and welfare reforms on the disabled and most vulnerable in society.

The UN said of the Conservatives’ austerity measures:

the Committee is seriously concerned about the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures, introduced since 2010, are having on […] disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups. The Committee is concerned that the State party has not undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the cumulative impact of such measures […] in a way that is recognized by civil society and national independent monitoring mechanisms.

Translated? The UN is saying that the government has forced through austerity measures without bothering to think or care how they would affect the poor, the disabled and the vulnerable – and that in doing so, they have flouted agreed international standards. The government had already been warned once by the UN in 2012 regarding this – but the Tories chose to ignore it. They were told that (regarding austerity):

such measures must be temporary, necessary, proportionate, and not discriminatory and must not disproportionately affect the rights of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups and respect the core content of rights.

The UN said the government now must review all austerity measures since 2010 and the impact they have had on the marginalised groups they refer to.

However, the severest criticisms were of the 2012 Welfare Reform Act and the Welfare Reform and Work Act of 2016 – and the language and recommendations from the UN were unprecedented.

Unparalleled human rights criticisms

In no uncertain terms, the UN said that it was:

deeply concerned about the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits, introduced [in the two acts] such as the reduction of the household benefit cap, the […] spare-room subsidy (bedroom tax), the four year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. The Committee is particularly concerned about the adverse impact on […] disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children. The Committee also is concerned about the extent to which the State party has made use of sanctions in relation to social security benefits and the absence of due process and access to justice for those affected by the use of sanctions.

This is exceptionally strong language from the UN. Having compared the report on the UK to that of Angola, nowhere in Angola’s does the phrase “deeply/seriously concerned” appear.

Nor does it in the reports for Burkina Faso, France, Sweden or Macedonia. The only report that ours is comparable to is that of Honduras – a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, and one which is subject to tourist travel warnings from both the US and the UK.

The recommendations from the UN are even more far-reaching.

It says the government should:

restore the link between the rates of state benefits and the costs of living and guarantee that all social benefits provide a level of benefits sufficient to ensure an adequate standard of living, including access to health care, adequate housing and food; Review the use of sanctions in relation to social security benefits and ensure that they are used proportionately and are subject to prompt and independent dispute resolution mechanisms.

But the most staggering part is that it says, without hesitation, that the government needs to reverse all benefit cuts that were introduced in both the 2012 and 2016 acts. It also stipulates that it expects the government to provide “disaggregated data” on the impact of the welfare reforms, specifically in marginalised groups.

Sadly, there is an inherent flaw with everything that the UN has stipulated – none of it is legally binding.

The UN state in their report that they are “disappointed” that this, and previous, governments have not taken the “covenant” (agreement & rules) of the committee and written them into domestic law. It urges the government “to fully incorporate the covenant rights into its domestic legal order and ensure that victims of violations of economic, social and cultural rights have full access to effective legal remedies”. That is, if a person feels that the government has breached its human rights under the UN’s covenant – it can take them to court.

The likelihood of this government, or any future one for that matter, adopting the UN’s rule is slim to say the least. But it is sorely needed.

Broken Britain? Again?

Speaking to The Canary, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said:

The response and recommendations of the report provide a damning declaration of the catalogue of the removal of rights that the Tories have imposed in their heartless regime. The report is to be welcomed for its forthright language and its recommendations. It contains everything that DPAC and campaigners have pointed out time and time again. For example, the call for a cumulative assessment of the cuts, the withdrawal of legal aid cuts, the targeting of funds to alleviate increasing poverty, reversal of welfare reform cuts, linking of cost of living to social security payments and a review of sanction procedures. If this report were a political party, it would win the next election. Labour – keep your elected leader and take note.

The report is one of the most damning assessments of a Western government in modern times. But to those who have been at the sharp end of recent policy changes, it will come as no surprise.

The government has to report back to the UN on certain aspects immediately, otherwise, the next review will take place in 2021.

Sadly, with a Tory government looking set to lurch even further to the right, and a Labour party in a state of implosion, things may well become even more precarious.

It seems, as always, that it will be down to us, the public, to try and force meaningful change.

And meaningful change must come – because already, for many, it is too late.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2016 12:34 am

    I searched the BBC website for this news, naturally I couldn’t find anything about it, so I’ve put in a complaint, it’s not everyday a Govt manages to break UN international human right, I’m sure it’s an award the Tories will be very proud off 😦

  2. l8in permalink
    June 29, 2016 12:48 am

    Reblogged this on L8in.

  3. mili68 permalink
    June 29, 2016 6:34 am

    Reblogged this on disabledsingleparent.

  4. jeffrey davies permalink
    June 29, 2016 8:43 am

    hmmm thou shall do better thou shall look after nah the tories take any notice of this not on your nelly but the aktion t4 plans roll along without much of a ado while they discuss this in the siderooms of the house of ill repute jeff3

  5. June 29, 2016 12:16 pm

    Reblogged this on Christopher John Ball.

  6. Jason Bell permalink
    June 29, 2016 6:34 pm

    Christ…do you scrounging Parasites never stop whining?
    Don’t like the amount of other peoples money you’re given? Get out and get a damed Job.

    • jeffrey davies permalink
      June 29, 2016 6:37 pm

      i see jb you are modern christian oh dear oh dear thou shall find by the time you get to be disabled you have nowt given to you jeff3

  7. June 30, 2016 10:11 am

    > The government has to report back to the UN on certain aspects
    > immediately, otherwise, the next review will take place in 2021.


    ‘If you don’t do a little bit now then we will blow some more worthless hot air in five years time’

    Well done UN, that’s telling them. LOL

  8. June 30, 2016 11:35 am

    It’s criminal that this tory goverment thinks it’s above the law and UN and will not budge on its ill treatment of the people of the U.K. And think that the E U laws are flaunted in this way the untouchables they flaunt all the human rights of individuals inflicting suffering and poverty and deaths in there wake . Even the children of uk are starving food banks trying to take up the shortfall best they can, human rights all but gone . Now leaving E U were at the mercy of the Tory party God help us all . They have nearly distoried out NHS never thought we would see that happen ! Who will rein them in and bring them to order before more deaths ensue as they will ? This party of Tories has blood on its hands of all those who could not stand to live in this way anymore the sick
    And dissabled have suffered greatly at there hands when will they be made pay for this rein of terror ? The laws that govern such bring in force in a court of law and justice be done for all suffering we all are stil enduring ?
    We have more cuts to come in benifits Ect who will stop this trinery on the vulnerable a
    Less fortunate in uk ?

  9. jeffrey davies permalink
    June 30, 2016 11:38 am

    Now leaving E U were at the mercy of the Tory party while under the eyes of the eu they culled the stock through benefit denial in or out they do the same voting for your labour candidate jeremy corbin is the only way forward jeff3

    • tom warner permalink
      July 2, 2016 12:06 am

      Corbyn has no chance at a GE, 17million people voted against his open door policy, one reason why our own poor and disabled are getting shafted, the EU is a dictatorship that we have zero control over,
      The tories could be voted out at the next GE but labour needs to wake up and drop the blairite ideology , new labour caused this mess it was blair who employed ATOS and changed the benefit from incapacity benefit to ESA never forget that those muslim loving blairites our not the friend of the working classes poor and sick

  10. jeffrey davies permalink
    July 2, 2016 6:27 am

    hmmm tom have you looked at how many support jc he is the way forward to bring labour back to the people if not then we are doomed has the blairs in the party will just do has they please has for muslims they exactly like christian praying for piece its only the minority of all groups of religeon who use it against the innocent

  11. August 14, 2016 3:19 am

    Reblogged this on housingcrisisuk


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