Austerity and the ‘Big Society’ as Inherently Destitution Inducing: The Implications of this from a Human Rights-Based Perspective

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Leicester Law School Postgraduate Research Conference (2021) (online)

Despite the explicit link between destitution and the lack of enjoyment of several fundamental Economic and Social Rights (ESRs), destitution is seldom addressed from a human rights perspective. This paper will argue that Austerity as implemented in the UK in 2010 alongside the policy of the ‘Big Society’ has been Inherently Destitution Inducing. In order to do this, existing destitution definitions will be examined. Despite there being a tension between these definitions with regard to the role of charitable provision and the extent to which an individual reliant on such provision destitute, I will demonstrate how inherent reliance on such provision is inherent to destitution traditionally conceived - and as conceived under my human rights-based definition.

Following this, I will outline the design of Austerity and its twin policy – alongside which austerity was implemented in 2010 – the ‘Big Society’. I will demonstrate that this period of austerity represented a ‘withdrawal’ or ‘retreat’ of the state with the gaps this created being envisioned to be filled by the ‘Big Society’. In highlighting what the idea of the ‘Big Society’ entails I will show that this process replaced provision previously provided by the state with provision provided by charitable provision. The increase in the number of foodbanks since 2010 is arguably the most telling example.

Thus, having argued that the design of these policies has been inherently destitution inducing – on account of fostering a reliance on charitable provision - I will the explore the implications of this from a Human-Rights Based Perspective. Through expressly – and causally – linking the rise in destitution in the UK to government policy and framing destitution as a violation of ESRs the aim is to work towards accountability for the ‘human cost’ of austerity and also to further effective policy and law to tackle and mobilise against destitution.
PeriodJun 2020
Event typeConference
LocationOnlineShow on map