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The United Kingdom seems to be endlessly lurching from one crisis to the next. With the cost-of-living crisis severely impacting people’s ability to feed themselves, heat their homes, and just meet their basic needs for survival, there are increasing demands for permanent and lasting solutions.

The impact that the cost-of-living crisis is having on people’s standard of living follows on from a decade of austerity, which dismantled much of our social infrastructure and left us exposed to the inequalities of the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, it is always the same groups who feel the sharpest effects, those living in poverty, older people, children, people of colour, migrants, and disabled people. 

For far too long the UK Government has refused to look beyond the short term. When interventions have happened, they have been short-term and temporary, never providing lasting solutions. Meanwhile the era of crises grinds on.

However, the tide is turning when it comes to possible remedies. Just Fair has long advocated for a human rights-based response to these crises and recent polling conducted by Compassion in Politics suggests that this is popular with the public. The polling found that 3 in 5 (60%) people would like the UK Government to introduce a guaranteed right to shelter, food, and a decent income. This includes 3 in 4 (75%) of 2019 Labour voters, 43% of 2019 Conservative voters, and 2 in 3 (64%) of 2019 Lib Dem supporters.

In addition, the Commission on the UK’s Future, chaired by Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, recently published its final report, which proposed that the UK should return to the founding principles of the welfare state by enshrining some of our economic, social, and cultural rights (our right to housing, health, education, and an adequate standard of living) into domestic law. Just Fair has urged the Labour Party to grasp this opportunity. 

A group of academics and lawyers consulting on socioeconomic rights legal reform also recently added their support to the idea noting that millions, including children, are living in poverty not able to access adequate food, housing, as well as our woefully under resourced health and education systems.

Despite this situation, protections that would ensure people’s basic needs are met remain absent from our existing domestic legislative arrangements. A new bill on socioeconomic rights – to complement the protections afforded to civil and political rights – would address such a significant legal vacuum.

Internationally, this idea is already taking off across the world – from Finland to Canada, and South Africa to Germany. Even closer to home, Scotland have their own well-advanced plans to enshrine many of these rights, and conversations have  started in Wales.

It is time that we took decisive action for the future. If these rights were enshrined in law, it would offer a genuine protection of a right to an adequate standard of living for future generations. This call for a human rights-based response is the sort of change the country desperately needs.

Background image by Claudia Bambi