Poverty myth buster

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Sometimes it can be hard to defend the welfare state, and one reason why it can be hard is because many people believe in stereotypes and myths about poverty and social security. This section sets out ten common myths and busts them with the truth.

Myth: Child poverty doesn’t exist in the UK. 

Truth: Nearly four million children in the UK, nearly 1 in 3 of all children, live in poverty. The UK has one of the worst child poverty records in the industrialised world.

Myth: Poverty in the UK is different from the poverty you get in the third world - children in this country don’t go without the basic necessities like food and clothing. 

Truth: 1.7 million children in the UK go without basic necessities like food and clothing, and families face tough choices between basics such as adequate heating and sufficient food.   

Myth: People living in poverty have enough money to live on. 

Truth: Families in poverty live on very low incomes.  The poverty threshold for a lone parent with two children is just £297 a week.        

Myth: Poverty no longer has any meaning or significance in a rich society like ours.

Truth: Adults with below average incomes are more than twice as likely to have a limiting, long-standing illness as those on above-average incomes. Children born into poverty are more likely to have a lower birth weight, high infant mortality and poorer health than better off children.

Myth: Anyone can escape poverty if they just make the necessary effort. 

Truth: More than half of children in poverty have parents in work, often caught up in a cycle of low pay and no pay.  The UK has one of the lowest levels of social mobility among developed countries.

Myth: The poor spend all their money on cigarettes and alcohol.  If you give poor families more money they’ll spend it on themselves, not their children. 

Truth: Parents living in poverty often put the needs of their children first by, for instance, missing meals so they can feed their children.

Myth: You’ll always have poverty.   

Truth: As we have seen, governments can make a difference: taxation and social security already reduce the level of poverty in this country.  Other European countries have lower rates of poverty (especially in-work poverty) and the UK has had much lower poverty rates in the past than it has now.

Myth: People can get out of poverty if they get a job, but they just won’t. 

Truth: There are five unemployed people for every job vacancy. Many poor families can’t work because of illness, disability or because there are simply no jobs available where they live.  There is also a lack of good affordable childcare in many areas. 

Myth: The problem is that the poor have too many children.  Anyway, large families receive many social security benefits. 

Truth: Just thirty four per cent of poor children live in families with three or more children, but children in large families are fifty per cent more likely to be poor.    

Myth:  People in poverty become dependent on state handouts.  We need to help people stand on their own two feet.

Truth:  The countries with the lowest levels of child poverty are the ones that invest significantly more in a welfare state to support and give opportunities to all families.

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