In Brief

Is the Government breaking human rights laws on child hunger?

Human Rights Watch report says Tory welfare cuts caused ‘hunger crisis’

A leading human rights group has accused the British government of breaching its international duty by pursuing “cruel and harmful policies” which have worsened the lives of the country’s poorest children.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) examined family poverty in Oxford, Hull, and Cambridgeshire, and concluded that tens of thousands of families do not have enough to eat. 

Researchers carried out 126 interviews with families affected by food poverty, volunteers, and staff in food banks and pantries, as well as reviewing official data from national and local government.

It found that pupils at two primary schools in the deprived Blackbird Leys area of Oxford are among those receiving donated fruit, vegetables, bread and dried goods from the Oxford Food Bank.

The report states that significant factors behind the “surge in hunger” were “deep” cuts to welfare spending by successive Tory governments since 2010, with support to families and children disproportionately hit. It says that Universal Credit has “exacerbated the hunger crisis”.

HWR analysis of public spending data shows that between 2010 and 2018 public welfare to assist children and families fell by 44%, far outstripping cuts in many other areas of government expenditure.

The group is calling for “urgent and concerted action” from the government to address the rise in hunger, arguing that ministers have “stood aside” and relied on charities to “pick up the pieces” of its “harmful” policies.

The Independent says the report comes after the United Nations warned that “cuts to social support were inflicting unnecessary misery in one of the richest countries in the world”.

Last month, Philip Alston, the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty, said the political focus on Brexit means that poverty is being ignored. He said: “You are really screwing yourselves royally for the future by producing a substandard workforce and children that are malnourished.”

However, a Government spokesman argued that “employment is at a record high and children growing up in working households are five times less likely to be in relative poverty”.

“We spend £95bn a year on working-age benefits and we’re supporting over one million of the country’s most disadvantaged children through free school meals,” he added.

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