Ulster University academics highlight role of law in challenging destitution

Professor Gráinne McKeever
Professor Gráinne McKeever

Academics at Ulster University have published a new report highlighting the role of the law and access to legal services in creating pathways into and out of destitution.

The report, Destitution and Paths to Justice, was commissioned by the Legal Education Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and published in parallel with a JRF report on destitution in the UK.

The report by Professor Gráinne McKeever, director of the Ulster University Law Clinic, and researchers Mark Simpson and Ciara Fitzpatrick makes three key recommendations:

  1. A statutory duty on destitution should be created: Primary legislation should establish a clear definition of destitution and a duty on public bodies to protect all persons lawfully present in the UK from destitution.
  2. Legal services should be co-located with other crisis and support services: Co-locating services would reduce referral fatigue and improve the ability of advisors to intervene earlier. The resourcing of legal services is vital in order to render any statutory duty to prevent destitution meaningful.
  3. Government should be placed under a positive duty to facilitate access to social security: The government should be placed under a positive duty to ensure that individuals are receiving the social security benefits they are entitled to. This would require government to address systemic issues in the administration of benefits.