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The UK Government makes the UK even more unfair

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published the Interim Report on the Cumulative Impact of the Government's tax and benefit policies between 2010 and 2017 carried out by Professor Jonathan Portes and his team.

Overall the report validates the earlier calculations by the Centre for Welfare Reform, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and the Institute for Fiscal Studies that - contrary to the explicit promises of George Osbourne, David Cameron and Theresa May - UK Government policy has been extremely unfair: It has harmed those in greatest need, while distributing resources towards the better-off.

The UK, already a very unequal society, has been made an even more unfair place to live by its own Government.

The main conclusions of the report are as follows:

  • The overall impact of policy decisions taken between 2010 and 2017 is regressive. In cash terms, those in the bottom half of the income distribution, lose more than those in the top 10 per cent. The reforms boost the incomes of the top fifth of those surveyed, whilst substantially reducing those in the bottom half.
  • Ethnic minority households will be more adversely impacted than White households, with average losses for Black households of about 5% of net income – more than double that for White households.
  • Households with one or more disabled members will be significantly more adversely impacted than those with no disabled members.
  • Lone parents lose around 15% of their net income on average – almost £1 in every £6.
  • Women lose more than men from reforms at every income level. Overall, women lost more than £940 per year on average, more than double the losses for men of around £460 per year.
  • The biggest average losses by age group, across men and women, are experienced by the 65-74 age group (average losses of around £1,450 per year), and the 35-44 age group (average losses of around £1,250 per year)

This report is based on modelling the impact of policy changes in the following areas:

  • Income tax
  • National Insurance Contributions (NICs)
  • Indirect taxes (VAT and excise duties)
  • Means-tested and non-means-tested social security benefits
  • Tax credits
  • Universal Credit (UC)
  • National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage

It is noticeable that this analysis does not include some areas where we know that policies have been even more unjust. The deepest cuts have been in local government spending in England and local government is responsible for care services to children, vulnerable women, disabled adults, people with mental health problems and older people with disabilities. If the cuts in income described by Portes and his team are combined with the cuts in support and assistance to those in greatest need then the picture is even more negative.

Dr Simon Duffy, who authored some of the reports which predicted these results said:

These findings validate the work of the Centre for Welfare Reform and the many grassroots disability groups, like Pat's Petition, the Spartacus Network and the WOW Petition who warned that UK Government policy is effectively a eugenic attack on the lives of disabled people. These findings also validate multiple reports by United Nations Committees who have been shocked and horrified by the regressive nature of UK Government policy. These findings also help explain the unusual increase in the overall death rate and the high rate of suicides by disabled people subject to the Government's misnamed 'welfare reforms'.

We are living through one of the great periods of social injustice in our country's history. Sadly most UK citizens still seem largely unaware of how harmful are the policies that are being imposed in their name. The ongoing role of the media in failing to properly report these issues is a serious concern, as is the muted response of many civil society organisations, universities and charities. Should the UK ever seek to redress these injustices it will have to ask profound questions about how and why these policies were imposed.

You can also read the following publications by the Centre for Welfare Reform which analyse how these regressive policies work and why they were imposed:

Counting the Cuts

A Fair Society?