Poverty stigma is hardening say leading figures

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Group relaunches anti-stigma drive as attitudes against the poor set to harden  

13th May 2015 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

Anti-poverty campaigners are worried a hardening of attitudes towards people from low-incomes will become worse as welfare cuts deepen.

They say the UK coalition government used words as weapons in order to justify a massive programme of cuts to social security and this is only set to intensify as a raft of further cuts to social security is being planned.

The Poverty Alliance said language such as "skivers" and "workshy" have become commonplace to describe people claiming benefits.

It is now launching the next phase of its Stick Your Labels campaign in a bid to smash the myths surrounding the causes of poverty, who lives in poverty and who is to blame.

We believe that we can turn the tide on the abuse that is directed towards people in poverty - Peter Kelly

The alliance will be encouraging organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors to commit themselves to a series of pledges and take the action needed to help change beliefs about poverty.

Pledges, to be launched at a reception in the Scottish parliament, are: poverty is not inevitable; attitudes matter; and actions change attitudes.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said much of the language that is now used to refer to those claiming social security benefits has the intention to stigmatise and separate, making people feel less worthy and having no right to support.   

He added: “This has the effect of undermining support for our system of social security, which we all use and benefit from. It also has the effect of making our system less effective in helping people in need. 

“That’s why we are issuing this challenge to organisations across Scotland to commit to standing up to poverty and saying no to stigmatising language.

“We believe that we can turn the tide on the abuse that is directed towards people in poverty, but that requires real actions from across our society.”

Scottish Government minister for housing and welfare, Margaret Burgess, said stigma was a consequence of the UK government’s austerity agenda “slashing” the incomes of some of the poorest households and pushing 100,000 children into poverty.

She said: “The Scottish Government is working hard to mitigate against the worst of the welfare changes and is helping those affected by investing around £296 million from 2013-14 to 2015-16 to limit the damage of the cuts and changes being introduced.

“We will continue to make the argument for a fairer welfare system and against the further £12 billion of welfare cuts that the new UK government is set to introduce, as this will have an impact on some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.”

“We know that recent UK government welfare policies have deepened the poverty crisis, and nobody can yet know the full effect of the threatened £12bn of further cuts.

"The government wouldn’t be able to pursue such a brutal policy if it hadn’t succeeded in stigmatising people in poverty, undermining the empathy and solidarity that a humane society depends on.

"Stick Your Labels aims to challenge this head-on, and I’m pleased to have the chance to support it.”

16th May 2015 by Steve Flynn

The conservative Westminster government is conducting a callous ideologically driven campaign against the poorest and weakest in our society by forcing them to endure appalling hardship and deprivation. At the same time using smears and propaganda to incite bad feeling against benefit claimants and the poor and so creating division among the people. A perfect example of divide and rule.