Open letter: When the UN calls out poverty in the UK, the government must listen

EXCLUSIVE: 50 leading poverty and inequality groups and activists write to the UK government demanding change.

Pic: The UN Human Rights Council, which meets today in Geneva.

Today, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, is presenting his report on UK poverty in front of the UN Human Rights Council.

Fourteen million people live in poverty, one and a half million of them in destitution, four in ten children are poor, food banks proliferate, homelessness and rough sleeping are on the rise, life expectancy is falling for women born in deprived areas… And all of it despite historically high employment levels.

The conclusion is both clear and bitter: Deep cuts to public services do not work and work does not pay for too many people. If the government had intended to harm the British social fabric on purpose, their masterplan would not have needed to be substantially different from the social devastation we’ve seen this last decade.

The world’s fifth economy must do much better than this. In recent weeks, the Government has accused Mr Alston of political bias and of painting a completely inaccurate picture. It is time neither for complacency nor histrionics. We urge the Government to be responsible and engage with international human rights bodies, and above all to listen to people that are most affected by the policies they are implementing.

We are witnessing an unstoppable movement to end poverty, fight inequality, preserve public services and champion human rights. Working poor people and those unable to work deserve to be heard. Mr Alston’s verdict is out. It’s the government’s turn now. The world is listening.


  1. Jamie Burton, Chair, Just Fair
  2. Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director, The Equality Trust
  3. Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Founder and Director, Surviving Economic Abuse
  4. Joanne Welch, Campaign Director, Back To 60
  5. Rev Paul Nicolson, Founder, Taxpayers Against Poverty
  6. Kath Dalmeny, CEO, Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming
  7. Tracey Herrington, Project Manager, Thrive Teesside
  8. Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator, Independent Food Aid Network
  9. Amanda Dubarry, Chief Executive, Caritas Anchor House
  10. Dr Simon Hoffman, Convenor, Wales Human Rights Stakeholder Group
  11. Gisela Valle, Interim Director, Latin American Women’s’ Rights Service
  12. Ele Hicks, Policy Manager, Diverse Cymru
  13. Kemi Akinola, Chief Executive, Be Enriched
  14. Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, University of Birmingham
  15. Professor Jon May, Queen Mary University of London
  16. Liane Groves, Head of Unite Community
  17. Dr Andrew Fagan, Co-Deputy Director, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex
  18. Dr Madeleine Power, University of York
  19. Robin Burgess, CEO, Northampton Hope Centre and IFAN trustee
  20. Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women’s Budget Group
  21. Deidre Woods, Food Activist
  22. Amy Murtagh, Interim Director, Project 17
  23. Adele Rose-Morgan, Founder, Joining the Dots
  24. Tom Burgess, Executive Director, Progressive Policy Unit
  25. Zoe Matthews, Strategic Advisor, Friends, Families and Travellers
  26. Susie Ventris-Field, Chief Executive, Welsh Centre for International Affairs
  27. Anny Malinen, Co-Director, Research for Action
  28. Joel Benjamin, Campaigner, Debt Resistance UK
  29. Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries, National Education Union
  30. Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Director, Jubilee Debt Campaign
  31. Asad Rehman, Executive Director, War on Want 
  32. Jennifer Nadel, Co-founder, Compassion in Politics
  33. Martin Drewry, Director, Health Poverty Action
  34. Jackie Longworth, Chair, Fair Play South West
  35. Dr Faiza Shaheen, Director, Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS)
  36. Louise King, Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), part of Just for Kids Law
  37. Guppi Bola, Interim Director, Medact
  38. Sarah Yiannoullou, Managing Director, National Survivor User Network
  39. Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now
  40. Dr Tomaso Ferrando, Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School
  41. James Kenrick, CEO, Youth Access
  42. The Collective Staff of Plumstead Community Law Centre
  43. Alisdair Cameron, Co-director, ReCoCo
  44. Pete Richie, Executive Director, Nourish Scotland
  45. Howard Reed, Director, Landman Economics
  46. Northern Ireland Council for Racial Equality
  47. Peter Kumar, Chair, Discrimination Law Association
  48. Dr Thembi Mutch, University of Sussex
  49. Roosje Saalbrink, Policy and Advocacy Manager – Women’s Economic Rights, Womankind Worldwide
  50. Liz Lockey, Co-ordinator, York: Human Rights City Network

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17 Responses to “Open letter: When the UN calls out poverty in the UK, the government must listen”

  1. Kevin Wright

    This government is slowly trying to drag the 99% of the people back to Victorian times, the government corruption is as bad as a banana republic. Jobs for the boys Tory hatred of anyone who hasn’t been to Public school is scandalous

  2. Jack Gilleece

    They, the Tory government are conveniently deaf and blind

  3. Timothy Mulley

    For at least three months, I’ve been looking after a homeless man, Paul along with others at my church. All the organisations involved with him have left him still homeless, a B and B night here and there from me. A meal at church on a Tuesday. He has looked after street mates but where is the government in all this? Sadly no emergency accommodation as would befit an advanced economy and less money for the council each year. Come on..where is the compassion? Where did it go, government? You should hang your heads in shame. I meet others and give them money regularly..drops in the ocean..really! I have little money myself but I give it away because I care. You hold on to it to make the “books” are unreal in the scheme of things.

  4. wg

    @Timothy Mulley – there are none so blind as those that will not see.

    A Labour government brought in a low-bar minimum wage, and every multi-national, multi-billion pound profit making company came down to that wage: and wages have stagnated ever since.

    Labour then added to the misery by opening the borders and allowing the UK working class to be completely overwhelmed (suggestion – isn’t it interesting that the Tories have so enthusiastically continued that policy?)

    Labour destroyed our council estates – first privatising by offloading to ALMOs (thanks to the poisonous Fabians for that one) and then knocking down decent houses with gardens and replacing them with soulless rabbit hutches with no place for children to play.

    Smug individuals virtue signal at every opportunity whilst they carry on creating the conditions in which these perceived evils flourish.
    And that’s what amuses me – people are treated as corporate fodder to be labelled, claimed as pet victims, or handed over to unaccountable powers, and we are expected to vote for some more of the same medicine.

    Also, on the subject of councils – they are thriving; growing bureaucracies, increasing numbers of directors, the never-ending revolving door of CEOs – with their golden welcomes, goodbyes, and pensions – THEY’ve never had it so good.
    We now have social apartheid in our cities.

    Come back, the Labour Party that I knew when I was young.

  5. SavingBees

    I am so glad someone is taking up our fight and helping us show our poverty at long last. None of the political parties do I trust they are just words and not doers. It will soon very soon be too late. Britain is a thirdworld country in a wealthy western society. Poverty abounds and other countries need to know ! Thank you for your voices !

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