Country visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: inputs received

14 September 2018
Submissions available below
Issued by:
The Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty
To inform the country visit to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland
At the 38th session of the HRC, A/HRC/41/39/Add.1


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, undertook an official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 5 to 16 November 2018 at the invitation of the UK Government. His visit focused, in accordance with his mandate, on the interlinkages between poverty and the realisation of human rights in the United Kingdom.

The Special Rapporteur presented the report on his visit to the Human Rights Council at its 41st session in June 2019.


Although the United Kingdom is the world's fifth largest economy, one fifth of its population (14 million people) live in poverty, and 1.5 million of them experienced destitution in 2017. Policies of austerity introduced in 2010 continue largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences.

Close to 40 per cent of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Food banks have proliferated; homelessness and rough sleeping have increased greatly; tens of thousands of poor families must live in accommodation far from their schools, jobs and community networks; life expectancy is falling for certain groups; and the legal aid system has been decimated.

The Special Rapporteur concluded that the social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities' budgets, which have eliminated many social services. The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.

Inputs received

Before his visit, the Special Rapporteur invited all interested individuals and organisations in the United Kingdom working on issues related to poverty and human rights, including representatives of civil society organisations, experts and academics, to provide input for the preparation of his visit to the United Kingdom in November 2018.

He asked respondents to provide input on the following thematic issues:

  • General: the definition of poverty and how poverty intersects with civil, political, economic and social issues in the UK.
  • Austerity measures and their effects on individuals, vulnerable groups, governments and public services
  • Universal Credit and its specific impact of Universal Credit on specific groups, including for example children, persons with disabilities, those without internet access, women and other groups which may be more vulnerable on the basis of their identity and circumstances.
  • New technologies in the welfare system: the impact of new technologies including 'big data', artificial intelligence, algorithms and automated decision-making processes.
  • Child poverty: its extent, implications and causes, and the government's response.
  • 'Brexit' and the potential implications of Brexit for the situation of those living in poverty in the United Kingdom.



Civil Society Organisations

Individual Submissions

Public Institutions