Party leaders urged to reject benefit claimant 'stereotypes'

A new campaign has kicked off with a letter to the UK's political party leaders urging them to reject misleading stereotypes of benefit claimants and instead focus on the needs of ordinary families on welfare.

Launched today by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the 'People Like Us' campaign claims that the current debate about social security is failing ordinary families.

The campaign reveals the results of two YouGov polls that suggest the public strongly rejects the idea that the government understands the concerns of people on low and middle incomes.

The first poll found that:

  • 69% of the public think the coalition government does not understand the concerns of people on low incomes. 
  • 57% believe the government does not understand the concerns of people on middle incomes. 
  • 72% of feel the coalition understands the needs of people on high incomes.

Meanwhile, the second poll revealed:

  • 59% of respondents said the social security system would not provide the support they would need if they lost their job.
  • 54% believe the system would not provide help if they became disabled or ill.
  • 59% said the system would not provide the help they'd need if they had to become a carer.

In its letter, CPAG invites party leaders to watch a five-minute film - ‘It Could Be You’ - in which three parents talk about receiving different benefits.

In the film, Maureen, a parent receiving disability benefits, says: “If you’d asked me 20 years ago, did I think I was going to be impeded by having a disability so therefore not able to work full-time, not able to support my child, that to me would have been horrific. I wanted to get back to work because apart from anything else I wanted to show an example to my daughter and the fact that I have a disability shouldn’t mean that I can’t work, but there are things that I cannot do.”

Alison Garnham, CPAG's chief executive, said: “The shocking truth about ’Benefits Britain’ is that people receiving benefits are just like us. Perfectly ordinary UK families rely on benefits and tax credits to provide an income to live on or to top up low pay, but our political debate lets them down.

“Politicians seem very happy to talk about fraud and reinforce dangerously misleading stereotypes about people not wanting to work but seem to go missing when it comes to doing something about the benefits system letting down ordinary people who have to rely on it when they lose their jobs, have a disability or become ill, or are in low paid work.

“The new campaign we’re launching today, ‘People Like Us’, is about the desperate need for a benefits debate that’s based on the needs of ordinary families. It’s only from a sensible debate, not politicians pushing ridiculous stereotypes, that we will actually get the policies that promote jobs, tackle low pay, promote affordable housing and childcare and help families with the added costs of children.”