A UNITED Nations expert who toured Jaywick as part of investigation into poverty across the UK claims drastic cuts to social support are "inflicting unnecessary misery".

Professor Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, visited the county's most deprived neighbourhood as part of his 12-day visit to the country.

Prof Alston, who met with residents at the Jaywick Resource Centre following an invitation from the Unite community branch, published his preliminary findings in London on Friday.

He said the UK Government’s policies and drastic cuts to social support are entrenching high levels of poverty and inflicting unnecessary misery, with a fifth of the population living in poverty and homelessness up 60 percent since 2010.

He said: “In the fifth richest country in the world, this is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one."

Prof Alston added that successive governments have presided over the “systematic dismantling” of the social safety net and that the introduction of Universal Credit has undermined the capacity of benefits to loosen the grip of poverty.

“British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach,” he said.

“The Government has remained in a state of denial, and ministers insisted to me that all is well and running according to plan.

“Despite making some reluctant tweaks to basic policy, there has been a determined resistance to change in response to the many problems which so many people at all levels have brought to my attention.”

“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 who are locked into a cycle of poverty from which many will have great difficulty escaping.”

Prof Alston said the introduction of Universal Credit has caused extreme hardship but could easily be reversed by the Government.

He added: "If a new minister was interested, if a new Government were interested, the harshness could be changed overnight and for very little money."

Clacton MP Giles Watling highlighted that there are one million fewer people in absolute poverty under the current Government.

"I could not be any more enthusiastic and optimistic about Jaywick and its future," he added.

"It is an area of truly outstanding natural beauty, and the people there have a lot offer – not least because of their strong sense of local community. I truly want to see this area thrive.

"But if we are going to address the deprivation we see in Jaywick, and we must do this, we need to understand the underlying causes.

"The communities of Brooklands and Grasslands in Jaywick are victims of history, having originally been built purely as a holiday venue, with chalets never intended for permanent accommodation. Over the years, people have moved in and this has contributed to the deprivation we are seeing now.

"If we look closer at the analysis conducted in 2015, we will see that Jaywick scored badly for employment, education, skills, and income.

"To correct this, I believe that we need to deliver better education opportunities to help people there enter and progress in employment – work is, after all, the best route out of poverty.

"I will, therefore, be looking to the council and the Government to deliver more effective education opportunities, so everyone, especially younger residents, can get into work.

"Encouragingly, the number of younger welfare claimants in our constituency has fallen in the last year, because they have entered employment."

Mr Watling added that infrastructure is "crucial" and that on top of the £6.5million scheme to improve the village's roads, he welcomed the councils plans for sustainable housing, including ten new homes that are currently under development.

He added: "While I accept that Jaywick does have its problems, I would gently make the point that deprivation there was last analysed in 2015 and won’t be analysed again until 2020.

"In that time frame, we have already done good work to address the factors that cause deprivation and I will ensure that more is delivered over the next two years.

"As such, I have no doubt that the subsequent analysis of deprivation in Jaywick will show that the area is very much on the up.”

Mr Watling questioned whether Prof Alston could glean an in-depth appreciation of the situation in Jaywick through a brief visit.

"I have known Jaywick on and off since the late 1950 and I understand where it comes from and have a picture of where it is going to be," he said.

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"I think it is very difficult to come down and see a place for two hours and gain an entire picture.

"It takes knocking on doors, walking down streets and engaging with the community to get a real feel for what it is like."