Fri 24 May 19
A visit to Jaywick by the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, supported by the Essex Law and Human Rights Centre Clinics, feeds into highly critical report on poverty and rights in the UK.
In November 2018, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, leading global rights expert Professor Philip Alston, undertook a two-week mission to the UK.
During the mission, as well as meeting with representatives of the government, Alston toured the UK to meet with, and learn from the lived experiences of communities, groups and individuals affected by poverty, and to better understand how the Government’s policies, including austerity and welfare reforms, have affected them.
In this context, Alston and his colleagues visited Jaywick in Essex, one of the most deprived areas of the country, and held consultations to learn from the local population. The visit was organised by Unite and involved participation from several community groups as well as individuals. The event was supported by the Human Rights Centre and the students of the Human Rights Centre and Law Clinics, who, amongst others, helped raise awareness about the visit in the local population and drafted a report on the visit.
In a scathing report, published on 21 May 2019, Alston lays bare the extent of poverty across the UK and its devastating impacts on the human rights of the population. The report makes direct reference to a number of issues that were raised by local people and organisations in Jaywick, including how stigma and discrimination on grounds of disability can increase vulnerability to poverty, period poverty can lead to girls missing school, flaws in the Universal Credit system which have left people desperate and without access to benefits for months, and how people feel abandoned by the State.
“The consultation in Jaywick made it plain to see how deprivation has harmed the human rights of the local population, including rights to housing, education and social security, and how the burden is often disproportionately borne by the young, women and persons with disabilities.” said Clinic Directors Patricia Palacios Zuloaga and Donald Nicolson. “We were delighted to be able to support Unite and the local community in organising the meeting, and are committed to support follow-ups in the coming months. We are proud of the dedication of our students in supporting the event, whilst, at the same time, recognising that they were able to gain important exposure to human rights practice to enhance their classroom learning experience.”
Noting that one fifth of the UK population is living in poverty, Alston’s report is highly critical of Government policy choices which he argues have variously caused and failed to alleviate the scale of the problem. Alston will present his report, which concludes with a number of recommendations to the UK Government, to the UN’s Human Rights Council in June 2019.
Mr. Philip Alston took up his functions as the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in June 2014. The mandate is one of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures, which are independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
The Human Rights Centre Clinic was founded in 2009. It enables students to apply their human rights knowledge to practical situations, working in partnership with a range of external organisations, governments and communities.
The Essex Law Clinic was also established in 2009 with the aim of enhancing access to justice while providing students with experience in putting their legal knowledge into practice, learning legal skills and developing ethical awareness through the direct provision of legal services to members of the community.