Coalition ‘misrepresents’ plight of people in poverty

The coalition government is guilty of deliberately misrepresenting the plight of people in poverty, argues a hard-hitting new report by a group of Churches. Evidence and statistics have been 'skewed' in order to put the blame for poverty at the door of poor people themselves, it says.

Key points

  • Many people – including churchgoers – have come to believe the key factors driving poverty in the UK are the personal failings of those living in poverty.
  • A number of 'myths' about benefit claimants have grown up, deliberately reinforced by the media and politicians, and then found their way into the popular consciousness.
  • These myths are convenient because they allow the rest of society to avoid taking any of the responsibility for tackling the real causes of poverty.
  • Myths hide the complexity of the true nature of poverty, and enable dangerous policies to be imposed on whole sections of society without the full consequences being properly examined.
  • Among the key myths are that: ‘they’ (ie people in poverty) are lazy and don’t want to work; are addicted to drink and drugs; are not really poor, but simply don’t manage their money properly; are on the fiddle; have an easy life; and caused the budget deficit through their demands on the benefits system.
  • The report specifically criticises government statements used to back up its 'troubled families' initiative, which it accuses of creating a distorted and prejudicial picture of families in extreme poverty.

The report argues that the systematic misrepresentation of the poorest groups in society is a matter of injustice that all Christians have a responsibility to challenge.

SourceThe Lies We Tell Ourselves: Ending Comfortable Myths about Poverty, Baptist Union of Great Britain/Methodist Church/Church of Scotland/United Reformed Church
LinksReport | Methodist Church press release | Baptist Times report | BBC report | Ekklesia report