Recently, the UN Special Rapporteur Professor Philip Alston, visited the UK (including Cardiff) to report on the state of poverty.
In his damning report, Prof Alston condemned the UK government’s treatment of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable. He said that cuts to social support were inflicting unnecessary misery in one of the richest countries in the world and that UK Government ministers were in a “state of denial.”
“During my visit I have spoken with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep…children who are growing up in poverty, unsure of their future.”
Prof Alston criticised the UK Government’s welfare reform agenda, regarding the introduction of Universal Credit as a, “sudden tonne of bricks approach” that is “utterly inconsistent with the essential underpinnings of not just human rights, but the whole British sense of community and the values of justice and fairness“.
I asked a question to the First Minister in the National Assembly, about the UN Rapporteur report, which also highlighted how the introduction of single household payments of Universal Credit, gives more leverage to a controlling and violent partner.
I urged the First Minister to encourage the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd MP, to halt Universal Credit and address this punitive policy which so adversely affects women.
The UN report also drew attention to the alarming rise of foodbank usage in the UK driven by changes to the benefits system and the austerity agenda. Whilst I was very pleased to support the wonderful volunteers at the Vale foodbank in Tesco last Friday, it is simply unacceptable that in the 21st century, we are seeing a dramatic surge in the ‘hidden hungry’-families and children who rely on foodbanks.
The Welsh Government has repeatedly called on the UK Government to rethink Universal Credit and earlier this year, highlighted how foodbank use in areas where Universal Credit had been fully rolled out had increased by 30% (according to National Audit Office statistics,) compared to a 12% increase in non-Universal Credit areas.
As Rebecca Evans AM, The Welsh Government Housing Minister said:
“I am deeply concerned about the flaws of Universal Credit, and its impact on the most vulnerable people in Wales, and I will continue to press the UK Government on addressing these.”