Universal Credit factor in UN report, poverty group says

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Church Hill Road in Handsworth, Birmingham

Birmingham neighbourhoods are seeing increased poverty rates along with the rest of the UK. Photo by Bob Hall via Wikimedia Commons

Universal Credit will mean poverty is only going to get worse in Birmingham, a local poverty group says.

Esther Spence, of the Birmingham Poverty Truth Commission, said she has seen poverty increase across the city this past year, as Birmingham postcodes were added to the Universal Credit roster. Ms Spence said:

“People are extraordinarily poor in our country.”

Ms Spence said the problem with policies like Universal Credit is that those who design the programs don’t talk to those who need them. The Poverty Truth Commission specifically works to link people who have lived in poverty with the people who make decisions in Birmingham.

The last of Birmingham’s neighbourhoods were added to Universal Credit earlier this year, but only for people newly claiming benefits. Those who already claim benefits will start being migrated over to Universal Credit in 2019.

If Universal Credit is not stopped or rethought, Ms Spence predicted that poverty will continue.

Her views of the future mirror a scathing report released by the United Nations last week. A total of 14 million people in the UK, one-fifth of the population, live in poverty, according to the UN report. Of those, 1.5 million cannot afford even basic essentials. The report predicts that child poverty in particular will continue to increase over the next several years, reaching as high as 40 percent by 2022. UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston wrote in the report:

“For one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.”

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