Delegates at the TUC conference discussed the riots that swept Britain last month.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said David Cameron was “wrong” to brand the riots “criminality pure and simple”.
He said that the unrest had exposed “pernicious inequality, but also underlined the folly of government policies, such as cutting youth services and withdrawing the education maintenance allowance [EMA] for 16 to 19-year olds in secondary education”.
Barber said that young people’s lives had been “stunted” and attacked politicians who “reached for simplistic clichés about moral decay” to explain the riots.
He also warned that the Tories were using the idea of an “undeserving poor” in their response to the protests.
An emergency motion on the riots proposed by the prison officers’ union argued that economic inequality and the impact of cuts lay behind the riots.
A TUC briefing on the riots states, “Ideologically the moral underclass argument is as repugnant now as it ever was. It would be foolish to deny the existence of small number of families in the UK with complex needs, usually living in circumstances of marked poverty and deprivation.
“A more sophisticated assessment of the reasons for the riots needs to take account of the extreme inequalities in income and water opportunities that characterise in the UK.”