Tackling ‘myths’ about poverty and benefits

A series of common 'myths' and stereotypes about poverty and benefits are tackled in a briefing paper from the Children's Society. It is crucial, the paper says, that public debate is based on the facts, and ensures policy-makers focus on the challenges most common to those living in poverty.


Key points

  • The number of out-of-work parents with more than two children is relatively small, at around 8 per cent of the total. Rather than living 'lavish' lifestyles, out-of-work families with three or more children are less likely to be able to afford a basic standard of living.
  • All families get extra support when they have a child, through child benefit payments – not just those who are out of work. The state spends more on child tax credits for working families than it does on out-of-work families.
  • Contrary to the myth that child-related benefits are misspent by parents on alcohol and drugs, low-income parents are often adept, out of necessity, at managing on tight budgets and protecting their children from the worst effects of poverty.
  • Child poverty is driven by a lack of jobs (particularly full-time jobs) and a lack of jobs paying decent wages, rather than parents' reluctance to work.
  • Although long-term unemployment is a serious problem, most people don’t stay out of work for more than a year. The real problem is people who find themselves regularly in and out of work, trapped in the no pay/low pay cycle.
  • Most of the social security bill goes to pensioners, not to people of working age.
  • Benefit fraud is comparatively small and has fallen substantially since the late 1990s. It is also less than the amount lost due to errors by those operating the system.
  • Just 110 households – out of a total of over five million – got more than £50,000 in housing benefit in 2012.
  • Just 2.1 per cent of children live in households where no-one has ever worked – which includes households headed by disabled people or students.
  • Two-thirds (65 per cent) of children living in poverty are in couple households, as opposed to lone-parent families.

Source: Graham Whitham, Challenging 12 Myths and Stereotypes about Low Income Families and Social Security Spending, Children's Society
Links: Briefing