Most people believe that benefits and welfare are an important safety net for people in needs, but one in four people have hidden the fact they claim benefits because of the stigma attached and worries over what people would think, says a new campaign.
More than seventy charities and community groups have joined forces to launch Who Benefits? – a campaign to give a voice to the millions of people supported by benefits at some point in their lives.
Polling carried out for Who Benefits? – brought together by The Children’s Society, Crisis, Gingerbread, Macmillan Cancer Support and Mind – reveals overwhelming public support for the principle that benefits should be there for those who need them. Eighty-one percent agree that ‘benefits are an important safety net to support people when they need help’, while two-thirds (64 percent) agree that ‘we all benefit as a society when support from benefits is available for those that need it’.
But despite widespread public support, more than a quarter (27 percent) of those who currently claim benefits say they have hidden this because of what people will think. This rises to half (47 percent) of 16-24 year olds who have been supported by benefits. And more than half (51 percent) of all those who had never been supported by benefits said they would feel embarrassed to claim.
The poll findings come on the back of the recent British Social Attitudes survey which showed a softening of public attitudes towards benefits and unemployment.
Who Benefits? argues that the overwhelming majority of those on benefits really need the support, yet too often their voices are ignored, misrepresented or at worst they are blamed for their situation.
The campaign, which launched yesterday (Tuesday 8th October), is asking people to share their stories through whobenefits.org.uk. Hundreds of people who have been supported by benefits have already shared their stories through the website and through social media with the hashtag #WeAllBenefit.
The government and media attack on claimants has been forceful and disproportionate. The rhetoric put out by government has sought to tar all claimants with the same brush, as scroungers and skivers, in a bid to cut welfare for all who need it. All this despite the presence of the recession which has forced many into unemployment, under-employment or lower income. The campaign has worked to smear claimants, who are not to blamed for the crash of the economy, who should not to be blamed for losing their jobs, who should not feel blame for the help they need.
It’s time to change the way we talk about benefits, because We All Benefit from a system of social security. Who Benefits? calls on the government to stop the damaging and divisive rhetoric on the worst off, and instead look at the real reasons people are struggling and falling into debt – housing, living standards, low wages etc.
Laura is one of the hundreds who shared their story. She said:
“I’ve needed support from benefits because, as a mother of four, daily life can be a real struggle. Before we received support I was forced to borrow from family and friends. I’m a full-time mum, and my husband has been working as a full-time mechanic for six years.”
“Receiving support from Child Tax Credits is not a lifestyle choice for me – it’s a necessity. It helps me to put food on the table for my family, buy clothes and school uniforms for my children and prevent the gas and electricity from being cut off. Without this support I don’t know how we would survive.”
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“Life is full of ups and downs, it can be unpredictable. But no one should go hungry because they lose their job or go into debt because they are on such a low wage. And it is reassuring to see that the public support this view.
“At a time when families up and down the country are feeling the squeeze, it is important – now more than ever – that society supports those in need. The overwhelming majority of people who get benefits really need them; whether they are working, looking for work or unable to work.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“Support from benefits makes a huge difference to the lives of many people with mental health problems, allowing people to stay well and retain their independence; or help with the additional costs that come from having a disability.
“Lots of individuals with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination, as their condition is less visible than a physical disability. These new statistics suggest those who claim benefits experience double the stigma.”
You can visit the Who Benefits? website here. Let’s change the debate.