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The United Nations (UN) has launched an investigation into poverty and human rights in the UK, to examine the impact of the austerity policies of Theresa May and David Cameron since the Tory Government came to power in 2010. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human rights, Professor Philip Alston, will undertake an official visit to the UK in November and has already called for submissions from anyone in the UK to establish “the most significant human rights violations experienced by people living in poverty and extreme poverty in the UK”. Professor Alston is interested in the impact of austerity, universal credit, the use of computer algorithms to make decisions on welfare matters, and Brexit. Submissions are particularly welcome which speak to the impact of austerity measures on vulnerable groups, the human rights of individuals who experience poverty and local government finances. The policy of austerity pursued by Labour in its last years in office and successive Coalition and Tory governments since 2010, has been widely criticised by human rights organisations and academics. In a report published in August 2017, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found that UK government welfare cuts had caused a “human catastrophe” for disabled people which resulted in “grave and systematic violations” of the rights of disabled people living in the UK. These cuts are disproportionately affect claimants living in Scotland, as researchers from the University of Sheffield confirmed that by 2020-21, Scottish welfare claimants can expect to collectively lose as much as £1,000 million a year as a result of the post-2015 reforms. Patricia Gibson MP said: “People have a right to food and an adequate standard of living; rights that the UK Government is obliged to ensure under international treaties it has signed. If the UN’s Special Rapporteur finds that the Tories at Westminster are failing to guarantee these basic rights for those living in poverty, they must reverse these cuts as a matter of priority. “In North Ayrshire, we’ve seen a 19.5% increase in the number of households in rent arrears and across Scotland food bank use is at a record high, increasing 2,447% since 2011. “Unfortunately, without the devolution of full welfare powers, the fate of Scotland’s most disadvantaged families depends on the Tories at Westminster finally accepting that austerity has been a flawed and misguided pursuit.” ENDS

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