In the fiftieth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose role is to promote and protect human rights, the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Mr Olivier De Schutter presented a report on the non-take-up of rights in the context of social protection. In this regard, the report addresses the phenomenon of individuals who are eligible for social protection and do not access their right to social security, guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Often those not receiving rightful benefits are the most marginalized and in the greatest need of social protection. This designates non-take-up as a heavy cost to society as it increases poverty, inequalities, distrust in the State, and erodes social cohesion.

In order to collect information on this phenomenon, questionnaires and interviews were conducted with a range of actors including civil society organizations, government officials, administrations responsible for social protection, academic experts and public individuals. The results confirmed that non-take-up occurs most predominantly due to a lack of awareness about the existence of social protection schemes and eligibility criteria. This is correlated to governments’ poor outreach to the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. Additional obstacles include costly or complex procedures, low digital literacy, shame or fear of interacting with social services, administrative barriers or errors, corruption, discrimination and/or insufficient funding. In Europe, non-take-up rates are above 40% for most benefits considered, confirming that the phenomenon is far from marginal in the continent

As governments have a responsibility to guarantee effective coverage through social protection schemes throughout one’s life cycle, the report calls for the non-take-up to be classified as a policy priority. Some concrete recommendations include a shift from viewing social protection as a cost to an investment and a human right, as this could help reformulate the relationship between service providers and users, reducing the risks of corruption and discrimination. Equally, targeted information campaigns and the participation of people in poverty in the design, implementation and monitoring of social protection schemes are highlighted as possible solutions. As the non-take-up of rights is a pervasive problem in most countries the report concludes that tackling non-take-up must become a priority in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

To read the Report on Non-Take-Up of Social Protections by the Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in full, click here.