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Just Fair responds to the Poverty Stratey Commission’s call for evidence.

Poverty often represents a violation of human rights, including to health (mental and physical), just and favourable conditions of work, education, social security, protection of the family and an adequate standard of living. All of these rights are protected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the UK ratified (and so agreed to be bound by) in 1976.

This is why we responded to the recent call for evidence by the Poverty Strategy Commission. The Commission was launched in June and members of the Commission include leading figures from UK businesses and civic society, people with direct experience of tackling poverty on the frontline and experts in data, policy and implementation.

In our response, we highlighted the following:

UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights 

The 2019 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, following his 2-week fact-finding mission to the UK. We consider this report particularly important because the testimony of people with direct experience of poverty who the Special Rapporteur met during his visit deeply impacted the content. This resulted in a report that shines a light on the pernicious and multi-faceted impact of poverty on people’s lives, and the unequal ways that poverty is experienced in the UK.  

No Recourse to Public Funds condition 

We recommended that the Commission read our recent joint report to the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on the impact of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition (read more about it here) on human rights. As we told the Commission, we believe that the NRPF policy represents an egregious breach of several economic, social, and cultural rights, notably the right to social security, and can leave individuals and families destitute. 

The Socio-economic Duty 

We advised the Commission that in Great Britain we already have a key mechanism at our disposal to help tackle poverty – the Socio-economic Duty contained in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 – but this has not been commenced nationally in England. We highlighted that in the absence of the commencement of the Duty, a growing number of local and combined authorities across England who see the value of the Duty are voluntarily implementing it (more on this in the recent guest blog from our friends at Greater Manchester Poverty Action).  

We recommended that the Commission adds its voice to the growing call for the commencement of Socio-economic Duty contained in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010. 

Taking a human rights-based approach 

We recommended that the Commission considers taking a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to its work, to ensure people’s rights are put at the very centre of its work. We talked about the value of such an approach in prioritising those who are most disadvantaged, examining power imbalances carefully, proactively eliminating discrimination and providing an empowering experience for participants, which helps people to take part in decisions which affect them and their rights, including by building their capacity and knowledge.    

We laid out a commonly used model for a HRBA – the PANEL process (Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination, Empowerment and Legality) and what each of these principles could mean in their work.  

Conclusion 

We wish the Commission well in their work and look forward to seeing their outputs. At Just Fair we will continue to highlight poverty as a human rights issue. 

Background image by RicardU