Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Demonisation of the benefit


'Scrounger' stigma puts poor people off applying for essential benefits

Research shows 'climate of fear' whipped up by media stories on benefit fraud delay or stop people in need from getting help

Hundreds of thousands of poor people say they have been put off applying for or collecting benefits because of the perceived stigma generated by false media depictions of "scroungers" – leading many to forgo essentials such as food and fuel, a new report claims.
Analysis by researchers, led by the University of Kent's social policy team, said polls and focus groups had revealed a quarter of claimants had "delayed or avoided asking for" vital welfare payments because of "misleading news coverage driven by [government] policy".
This "climate of fear" means 1.8 million people have potentially been too scared to seek help they are entitled to from the state. Such is the scale of successive governments' disinformation that the report calls for ministers to abandon briefing journalists ahead of their speeches and asks Whitehall departments to seek corrections "for predictable and repeated media misinterpretations".

The researchers tested the accuracy of recent government statements and found them lacking. The report highlights that ministers – including the chancellor, George Osborne – had claimed there were families taking £100,000 a year in housing benefit. In fact there were only five such families in the UK.
Last year ministers appeared to brief that 1,360 people had been off work for a decade with diarrhoea, when in fact they had severe bowel diseases and cancer.

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