Legal protection against destitution in the UK: the case for a right to a subsistence minimum

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In a 2003 Supreme Court judgment, Lord Hoffmann argued that in the absence of a guaranteed minimum standard of living, many other rights are reduced to ‘a mockery.’ Given recent research that defined 2.4 million UK residents as experiencing destitution in 2019, it is necessary to consider whether a social floor can be said to exist in law and what its absence or current weakness says about the standard of human rights protection in the UK. The common law, social rights treaties and the European Convention on Human Rights can each play a role in identifying a minimum standard of living, but with variable degrees of precision, generosity and enforceability – and always subject to the ability of the sovereign legislature to set its own social floor, including one that can render people destitute. With an analysis of the case law revealing clear weaknesses in protection against destitution, the authors argue that a specific statutory duty is required to address this failure of rights protection.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Modern Law Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Jul 2022


  • Destitution
  • social rights
  • human rights
  • poverty
  • inhuman and degrading treatment
  • family life
  • European Convention on Human Rights
  • European Social Charter
  • law of humanity
  • welfare state
  • social security
  • social assistance
  • Social Protection
  • social welfare
  • extreme poverty
  • Asylum seekers
  • asylum support
  • hardship


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