UK benefit levels ‘inadequate’

The level of many social security benefits in the UK is 'manifestly inadequate', according to a report published by the Council of Europe.

The report was authored by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), made up of independent experts. The mission of the ECSR is to judge whether states are conforming with the provisions of the European Social Charter.

Key points

  • The ECSR report for 2013 shows some 180 violations of the European Social Charter across 38 Council of Europe member states.
  • European governments and international organisations are urged to pay greater attention to social and economic rights when implementing austerity measures.
  • According to the Council, the increase in violations of the Charter is linked to inadequate levels of social benefits – disproportionately affecting those in poverty, unemployed people, the elderly and the sick – and to unequal treatment of migrants under the guise of combating so-called 'benefit tourism'.
  • In respect of the situation in the UK, the report says that the minimum levels of short-term and long-term incapacity benefits, state pension and jobseeker's allowance are 'manifestly inadequate', as they fall below 40 per cent of the Eurostat median equivalised income.
  • In addition the ECSR also describes minimum levels of statutory sick pay, short-term incapacity benefits and contributory jobseeker's allowance for single people as 'manifestly inadequate', in line with the findings in its previous reports.

In response, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was reported as saying: 'It's lunacy for the Council of Europe to suggest welfare payments need to increase when we paid out £204 billion in benefits and pensions last year alone... Whether for short term needs or longer term support, millions of people find that the welfare system provides a valuable and fair safety net when they need it most'.

SourceEuropean Social Charter: European Committee of Social Rights - Conclusions XX-2 (2013)/(Great Britain)/Articles 3, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of the 1961 Charter, Council of Europe
Links: ReportUK Report | Council press release | Guardian report | Huffington Post report

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Publication date: 
Jan 29 2014