Everyone living in the UK should enjoy our social, economic and cultural rights equally. Yet Just Fair’s latest report to the United Nations shows that this is not the case. It’s time for answers from the UK Government – and more than that, it’s time for change.
The cost-of-living crisis; food bank use; fuel poverty, clothing poverty, low wages; poor work conditions; restrictions on the right to strike; discrimination in work, at school, in healthcare and in housing; rising poverty rates, including amongst people in essential or keyworker roles; restrictions on access to social security and inadequate safety nets. This list of issues reads like a roll call of recent news headlines – but all are also human rights issues under international law. In 1976 the UK Government pledged to protect these economic, social and cultural rights in the UK when it ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Covenant). Over 45 years later, it is failing to do so.
Today Just Fair launches a report to the United Nations as the first in a series of opportunities to hold the UK and Welsh Governments to account over their failure to protect our human rights at home. The report is part of lead up to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (UNCESCR) review of the UK, which will assess what is being done well, pinpoint where the UK is falling behind, and identify who is responsible and where things could improve.
A unique report
The evidence shared in the report covers the past five years and comes from the unique vantage point of the individuals and organisations that make up civil society. Civil society organisations are on the frontline of efforts to address poverty and inequality in the UK, as a result, this report provides a vital perspective on the state of our rights.
Often reports in the UNCESCR review process are strategically focused on a few specific issues – however this report does something a bit different by gathering the experiences and evidence of over 70 participants, covering the breadth of the protections in the Covenant, to paint a fuller picture. This is because it is important that the UN has a sense of the overall panorama of how rights are experienced by a wide range of different people in the UK at present.
Much of the evidence is damning, pointing to a government falling short in many areas and for too many people. For example, one in four children are growing up in poverty in the UK, when you zoom in to just Wales, the number increases to 34%. In 2021/22, a staggering 2.1 million emergency food parcels were provided to people in crisis by food banks in the Trussell Trust network. Six out of ten people with learning disabilities die before the age of 65. Finally, Gypsy and Traveller people have a life expectancy of 10-25 years less than the general population.
These statistics are shocking to read and sadly, have been a reality for people across England and Wales for too long. With this new report, we are beginning the process of holding the UK and Welsh Governments to account on their obligations under the Covenant
Read the full report here
Read our companion guide to the report and the process here
Image by Daniel Liévano