25/10/2018 00:01 BST

Britain’s Poorest Trapped In Downward Spiral As Infant Mortality Rises, Equalities Watchdog Finds

Welfare reforms impact the most vulnerable, new report says.

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Disabled people in Britain find themselves increasingly excluded from society, a new report finds.

Britain’s disabled, minorities, and children from poor backgrounds risk being forgotten as they become trapped in a cycle of disadvantage, the UK’s equality watchdog has warned.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission uses a new report to highlight “alarming backward steps” in opportunities for at-risk groups.

The report, ‘Is Britain Fairer?’, found:

  • Child poverty has increased and infant mortality has risen for the first time in decades;
  • Disabled people find themselves increasingly excluded from mainstream society;
  • Black African, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people are still the most likely to live in poverty, while Black Caribbean people are more likely to experience severe deprivation.

The government’s flagship welfare reform, Universal Credit – which has come under fire for trapping claimants in spiralling debt – continues to disproportionately impact the poorest in society, the report finds.

Ethnic minorities, women and disabled people are adversely affected by welfare reforms, it adds, weakening the safety net for those unable to work or stuck in low-paid or precarious work.

The report finds that the disability pay gap persists, unchanged since the last report in 2015, while the likelihood of disabled people being in low-pay occupations has increased.

Meanwhile, the report’s authors note that reductions in legal aid and changes to the legal system have led to individuals not being able to access justice.

David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Britain is facing a defining moment in the pursuit of equality.

“We’ve seen some significant areas of progress, particularly in the improvement of opportunities in education and at work, as well as the fact that more people are now engaging in politics.

“However, in an already divided nation, some unacceptable gaps continue to grow. Across many areas in life, the losers struggle to make headway in a society where significant barriers still remain.

“They are the forgotten and the left behind and unless we take action, it will be at least a generation before we put things right.”

Isaac encouraged the government to ensure that Brexit does not affect standards of equality in Britain.

Charities warned the report’s findings painted a “disturbing” picture of human rights in Britain.

“This disturbing assessment shines light on how cuts to disability benefits and social care are pushing disabled people further into poverty,” the MS Society’s Genevieve Edwards said.

While Dalia Ben-Galim of single parent charity Gingerbread said: “Another hard hitting report – this time from the Equality and Human Rights Commission – that shows single parents being hit hard by the Government’s welfare reform agenda and the lack of decent quality work.”

A Government spokesperson said: “This Government is committed to tackling burning injustices and building a country that works for everyone, with equal opportunities for all.

“However we are not complacent, which is why the UK has some of the strongest equalities legislation in the world and is a recognised world leader in gender equality.

“We have introduced ground-breaking gender pay gap regulations, the Race Disparity Audit which shines a light on how people of different ethnicities are treated across public services, the introduction of shared parental leave and £100 million in funding committed between now and 2020 to strengthen support for victims.”