Photo: Number10/JayAllen/Flickr - Crown Copyright (cc2.0)

An SNP MP has slammed Theresa May’s dismissive “head in the sand” response to concerns about poverty in the UK – warning the Prime Minister’s refusal to accept and address the issue was part of the problem.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, Marion Fellows challenged the Prime Minister on the UN report into poverty in the UK, and the damaging impact of UK government cuts to Universal Credit.

The United Nations have joined other bodies like the National Audit Office in their condemnation of the UK government’s failure to tackle poverty. The report accused UK government Ministers of being ‘in denial’ about poverty.

UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, said in a report last week that DWP ministers are in a “state of denial” over the devastating impact of Tory welfare policies on poor and vulnerable people.

In statement issued following an investigation into the extent of poverty in the UK visit to the UK, Mr Alston delivered a scathing attack against the Government’s “callous” and “mean-spirited” approach to social security.

A Trussell Trust foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

He said: “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”

Mr Alston added: “Government policies have inflicted great misery unnecessarily, especially on the working poor, on single mothers struggling against mighty odds, on people with disabilities who are already marginalised, and on millions of children.”

Commenting, SNP MP Marion Fellows said: “The Prime Minister’s shameful head-in-the-sand response to concerns about rising poverty in the UK has proven the point of the UN Special Rapporteur, who accused UK Ministers of being in denial about the problem.

“The UK government’s refusal to admit and address this issue will only lead to even more families facing poverty and deprivation.

“It’s time for the Tories at Westminster to wake up and take action on their shambolic record on poverty, heeding calls from the SNP to take action on the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit, scrapping the two-child cap and ending the ideologically-driven benefit freeze.”

A near empty food cupboard. Photo: Oxfam.

Her comments come after the new Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd dismissed the UN’s damning report, branding the language used in the report as “extraordinary political” and “wholly inappropriate”.

“I must say I was disappointed to say the least by the extraordinary political nature of his language”, said Amber Rudd.

“We on this side of the House will always engage with professionals, with experts, with NGOs.

“We are not so proud we don’t think we can learn as we try to adjust Universal Credit for the benefit of everybody.

“But that sort of language was wholly inappropriate and actually discredited a lot of what he was saying.”

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Margaret Greenwood MP, called on Ms Rudd to “end the government’s state of denial” and “stop the rollout” of Universal Credit.