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CAP report dispels ‘myths’

01 February 2013

PEOPLE in poverty are being stigmatised by "myths and distortions" peddled by the media and politicians, a report published this week by Church Action on Poverty (CAP) argues.

The Blame Game Must Stop: Challenging the stigmatisation of people experiencing poverty, which draws on reports and research by a number of organisations, says that "a constant stream of messages . . . encourages distrust and an attitude of blame towards people on low incomes". It says that "people increasingly feel ashamed, and judged by others, if they are in poverty - particularly if they are receiving benefits."

One of the "myths" singled out by the report is the "false dichotomy between 'deserving poor' ('strivers', children, pensioners) and 'undeserving poor' ('shirkers', drug addicts, 'hoodies')", which "creates the impression that all unemployed people are 'shirkers'". The report quotes figures from the Office for National Statistics which suggest that "70 per cent of unemployed people find work again within a year, and fewer than one in five remain unemployed for longer than 24 months."

Another perception the report seeks to dispel is "the supposed existence of families 'where three generations have never worked'", which it says that politicians often refer to. Research conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year "was unable to identify a single example where this was actually the case", the report states.

The report's recommendations include newspapers' making it clear, when reporting examples of benefit fraud, "that they are not representative of the whole population claiming benefits"; for politicians and journalists no longer to use "abusive language" when referring to people in poverty; and for news stories to "include case studies and interviews which reflect real people's experiences of poverty".

The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, writes in a foreword to the report: "The most vulnerable people in our society are increasingly being used as scapegoats, and blamed for economic problems which are not of their making. . . It is particularly important to challenge these attitudes in the current economic climate when many more people are struggling with unemployment and low income through no fault of their own."

www.church-poverty.org.uk/stigma/report/blamegamereport

THE culture of worklessness -where generations in the same family have never worked - is a fiction, new research suggests, writes a staff reporter.

Poverty and Insecurity: Life in low-pay, no-pay Britain, a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found that two generations of complete worklessness in the same family was rare - less than one per cent - and that there was no evidence of the "culture of worklessness" often spoken of by politicians.

Researchers found that children in families where parents did not work were keen to avoid the poverty and unemployment experienced by their parents, and that their parents were also committed to helping them find work.

The reasons for their parents' long-term unemployment were usually complex, and included poor schooling, drug- and alcohol-use, domestic violence, and physical and mental ill-health.

The latest unemployment figures show that the UK has recorded its sharpest monthly drop in unemployment, owing to a rise in jobs in the private sector.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of jobless fell by 86,000 to 2.51 million in the three months to October, despite the weak economy.

Private-sector employment was up by 65,000 to a record 23.9 million, while public-sector employment was down by 24,000 to 5.7 million - its lowest level since 2002.

For those in work, however, pay rises are not keeping track with inflation, and employees are worse off in real terms than before 2008.

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