TUC challenges poverty stereotypes at London conference

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date: 12 October 2011

embargo: 00.01hrs Monday 17 October 2011

TUC research which aims to challenge and dispel popular but unfounded myths and stereotypes about people living in poverty is being published at a conference in London today (Monday).

Challenging Myths and Stereotypes will tackle several widely-held beliefs about people claiming benefits and living in poverty which the TUC believes are inaccurate and damaging, including:

  • 'People on disability benefits are swinging the lead'
  • 'Lots of unemployed people are scroungers'
  • 'Benefit levels are a disincentive to work' and
  • 'Child poverty is down to bad parents'.

A new TUC briefing produced to coincide with the conference - Are People on Disability Benefits Swinging the Lead? - challenges the misconception that the majority of people claiming disability benefit are cheats and fraudsters, or are out to get over-generous benefits that they are not entitled to.

The report finds that contrary to popular belief fraud is very rare amongst disability benefit claimants, accounting for 0.5 per cent of the 2010/2011 disability living allowance budget, and just 0.3 per cent of the incapacity benefits bill.

The briefing also raises concerns that these unfounded and damaging stereotypes could be partly responsible for the increase in hate crimes disabled people have experienced in recent years.

TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'All too often we see people living in poverty ridiculed as cheats or scroungers.

'But poverty is not a laughing matter. Millions of children are growing up within extremely poor families and the UK has one of the lowest levels of social mobility in the developed world.'

Community Links is also launching a report called Speech Marks at the conference, which argues that negative language about people on benefits hampers the chances of those who can work getting a job. The London-based charity will run a seminar on 'Speech Marks': the negative impact of MP's stigmatising language on welfare policy.

Frances O'Grady said: 'Negative portrayals of people on low incomes as lazy, feckless, scrounging on the dole and somehow worth less than the rest of society are not just demonising but hinder jobseekers' efforts to get back into work, creating an environment of suspicion and disdain amongst employers and support staff, and destroying self-confidence.

'Contrary to stereotypes, the vast majority of people on low incomes are not cheating the benefits system. Most people on the breadline want decent work but are struggling - particularly in the current economic climate.'

Frances O'Grady and PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka will address the TUC's annual poverty conference at Congress House.

Delegates will attend morning workshops to discuss stereotypes, and in the afternoon will quiz a panel - which includes Owen Jones author of Chavs: the demonization of the working class, Natascha Engel MP, former Chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee Social Fund Commissioner Sir Richard Tilt, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower, Citizens Advice Head of Welfare Policy Lizzie Irons, Bea Roberts from ATD Fourth World and Kevin Flynn from the Newcastle and Gateshead Centre Against Unemployment - on how to combat them.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- Are People on Disability Benefits Swinging the Lead? is available at www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/97/DisabilityBenefits.pdf

- Speech Marks is available at www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/101/Speechmarks.pdf

- Challenging Myths and Stereotypes will be held at the TUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS from 10.30am-5pm. The conference is organised by ATD Fourth World, the Child Poverty Action Group, Community Links, Oxfam, PCS, Save the Children, the TUC and the Unemployed Workers' Centres. To register for the conference please contact Jennifer Mann on jmann@tuc.org.uk or on 020 7467 1222.

- For media accreditation to the conference please email Elly Gibson on egibson@tuc.org.uk

- The TUC is a member of the End Child Poverty coalition. The Campaign to End Child Poverty includes children's and other charities, social justice groups, faith groups, unions, businesses and many others concerned about the unacceptably high levels of child poverty in the UK. For information visit www.endchildpoverty.org.uk

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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