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Social Workers Deeply Concerned at Damning United Nations Report on Poverty

The British Association of Social Workers Northern Ireland (BASW NI) is deeply concerned at the findings of a highly critical report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. The report, drafted by Professor Philip Alston, highlights the UK Government’s unwillingness to acknowledge the scope and impacts of poverty, and underlines its ideologically motivated drive to strip the social security system. 

Speaking about the Special Rapporteur’s findings, BASW NI Chair, Colin Reid said: “Poverty in Northern Ireland, as throughout the UK, is widespread and deeply damaging to the life opportunities of millions of people across society. The extent of the problem is vast, Professor Alston’s report highlights 14 million people, one fifth of the UK’s population, live in poverty. Additionally, just months before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the document highlights it will be the most vulnerable and disadvantaged that are worst hit by Brexit.

“Social workers witness the debilitating impacts of poverty on a daily basis and are all too familiar with the devastation caused. Many of the people social workers support have seen their circumstances caused, or exacerbated by poverty, including people with a mental health problem, families experiencing breakdown, or children suffering neglect.”

The UN report highlights the severity of poverty in the UK, explaining 1.5 million people are destitute—meaning they are unable to afford basic essentials—and notes deeply worrying increases in levels of child poverty.

Mr Reid continued by saying: “It is nothing short of a national outrage that in the world’s fifth largest economy, 1.5 million people, approximately equivalent to the population of Northern Ireland, are destitute and child poverty continues to increase. Furthermore, many of the problems we face have been caused by a dogged and unflinching approach to pursuing austerity at all costs, an approach driven by political choice rather than economic necessity.”

Mr Reid concluded by saying: “It is essential that Government recognises the impacts of austerity on all areas of public services. While huge sums have been extracted from the benefits system, including those associated with the deeply flawed Universal Credit system, savings are minimised by the associated growth in demand for public services, not least of all, social work. Increasingly, our members bear the pressure of delivering under-resourced services which creak beneath the strain of ever-growing poverty-related social problems.”


Notes to Editors

  • Andy McClenaghan, BASW Northern Ireland Public Affairs and Communications Officer, will be available for interview.
  • The British Association Social Workers (BASW), the largest professional body for social workers in the UK, has 21,000 members employed in frontline, management, academic and research positions in all care settings.
  • Professor Alston’s report is available from


Andy McClenaghan, Public Affairs and Communications Officer

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