TUC: 'unfounded myths' about unemployment benefit scroungers

David Woods , 18 Oct 2011


The TUC has published research which aims to challenge and dispel the “popular but unfounded myths” that 'people on disability benefits are swinging the lead'; 'lots of unemployed people are scroungers'; and 'benefit levels are a disincentive to work'.

Its report Challenging Myths and Stereotypes, published yesterday, will tackle several widely-held beliefs about people claiming benefits and living in poverty which the TUC believes are inaccurate and damaging.

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

The TUC has also raised oncerns 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.

O'Grady added: "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."


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TUC turns the tide

Michelle Scott 18 Oct 2011

Thank you for reporting this. So many disabled people are living in fear and poverty and it is criminal what the media has done to them. Some benefits are there to enable disabled people to work. I was only able to work because I had a Motability car (I need a hande-controlled car). But the Government cuts meant that benefit was cut - so I had to give up work. Thanks to my wonderful MP, my claim was looked at again and reinstated so I can look for a new job. But what about all the others? Those too ill to fight when their benefit is cut. Those who live in fear of the brown envelope arriving. Benefits are barely enough to live on. No-one in their right mind would choose to live on benefits. They are a short-term solution for many. But there are terribly ill people who are slipping through the net because they can't fight and don't want to be stigmatised as 'benefit scroungers'. These are the people the benefits system was set up to help - as any democratic society should do, look after those too ill to look after themselves. But the tiny minority who are in receipt of benefits they aren't entitled to DO have the fight, and know the system.

Minority spoiling it for the majority!

bj 18 Oct 2011

As with so many aspects of life, it's the small number of rotten people who spoil it for the good. It's the scroungers one sees, it's the scroungers the media highlight. Sadly, all disabled then get 'tarred with the same brush'. As an able bodied person, my heart goes out to the genuine disabled who bravely struggle to make the best of the rotten hand they have been dealt. Shame on the few who 'swing the lead'.

Definition problem

F Innes 18 Oct 2011

Some of the problem relates to the definition of 'disabled'. Like it or not the vast majority of people who work and pay NI do not feel that certain problems can really be considered to be a disability eg alcoholism ,drug addiction, emotional problems due to a relationship ending. When the current Welfare system was created more than 60 years ago such 'disabilities' were virtually non-existent,and very few people would have questioned paying taxes and NI to assist short-term disability. Very few people would have questioned paying to assist people who were born with or became afflicted with a recognised disabling illness or condition. Then as now,when people who pay are (in their minds) are struggling to make ends meet, it is inevitable that they will focus on those they perceive to be getting a 'free ride'.

More "unfounded myths"

JM 18 Oct 2011

May I just point out that you won't get DLA or ESA simply because you have had a relationship end, any more than you will be allowed to stay in this country because you have a cat. However, mental health issues are very complex. If you are already suffering, then the end of a relationship may be enough to push someone from being able to cope because they have support, to being unable to function. It's the underlying mental health problem that entitles you to benefits, not the breakup. Unfounded myths devalue the very real suffering of people and belittle those who already have low self-esteem.

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