-A A +A
Select color visibility that suits you Basic theme Dark theme Darker theme Text only

MPs told £20 week cut to Universal Credit would breach UK’s international human rights obligations

06 September 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW), has written to Parliamentarians to say that the October £20 a week cut to Universal Credit would breach UK’s international human rights obligations.

In addition, it says that the £20 uplift should be given to those on “legacy” benefits such as ESA.

HRW is an international non-governmental organization, that conducts research and advocacy on human rights It consists of are around 450 people of 70-plus nationalities who are country experts, lawyers, journalists, and others who work to protect the most at risk.

In its letter, HRW says that if the Government were to proceed with the proposed cut, it would be in violation of its international human rights obligations, in particular the binding International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed by the UK in 1968 and ratified in 1976, which sets out the rights to an adequate standard of living and to social security.

It highlights that any austerity measure must satisfy the stringent test set out by the International Covenant :

“The six-part test requires that, when proceeding with cuts, a state show: a compelling state interest;

  • demonstrate that it has exhausted all alternatives; ensure that the cuts are non-discriminatory;
  • ensure the decision is temporary, necessary, reasonable and proportionate;
  • give opportunity to those most likely to be affected by the policy to participate genuinely in the decision-making process; and
  • ensure a minimum social protection floor.

The decision by the government to proceed with the planned cut will cause deep harm and does not satisfy all these criteria …

In fact, rather than cutting this support, greater priority should be given to ensuring the up to 2 million people yet to enter the Universal Credit system and still receiving “legacy” benefits, including people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, are guaranteed a commensurate increase to their level of social security support.”

Human Rights Watch conclude by saying to Parliamentarians:

“We urge you to use the period immediately following the resumption of Parliament to make the government think again. There is still time to act now to prevent the increase in poverty and queues for aid at food banks that will result from this retrogressive move.”

Note: the organisations letter cites evidence of the harm that will be done by the benefit cut, including in research produced by Child Poverty Action Group, Citizens Advice, Feeding Britain, Independent Food Aid Network, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Policy in Practice, Save the Children UK, Trussell Trust, Turn2Us, and Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, among others.

Human Rights Watch Letter to UK Parliamentarians Regarding Impending Cut to Social Security Support is available from www.hrw.org.