Call to stop ‘stigmatising’ people in poverty

The 'stigmatisation' and 'demonisation' of people in poverty must stop, says a Church Action on Poverty report. It calls for politicians and the media to refrain from using insulting and degrading terms when talking about people in poverty, and to end the artificial polarisation between 'strivers' and 'skivers'.


Key points

  • Politicians and the media are routinely guilty of using abusive language such as 'scroungers', 'skivers', 'chavs' and 'underclass' when talking about people living in poverty.
  • This language is used to fuel mistrust by contrasting supposed 'strivers' with 'skivers', and justify benefit cuts that will drive hundreds of thousands of people further into poverty. It dehumanises and degrades people who are already struggling to survive, and blames them for an economic crisis that is not of their making.
  • One survey has found that over 60 per cent of all articles concerning benefits in tabloid newspapers contain negative vocabulary or have a negative theme.
  • Because of the stigma attached to receiving benefits, many people fail to take up benefits they are entitled to. Stigmatisation can even lead to hate crime – police figures for 2011 showed an increase of over 30 per cent in attacks on disabled people.

Writing in a foreword to the report, the former children's minister in the coalition government (Sarah Teather MP) says: 'Stigmatising people on benefits is politically popular, but it isn’t fair, it isn’t right, and it will have long-term impacts on society that I think we will come to regret deeply'.

Source: Ambrose McCarron and Liam Purcell, The Blame Game Must Stop: Challenging the Stigmatisation of People Experiencing Poverty, Church Action on Poverty
LinksReport | Ekklesia report