Chancellor's Budget is an opportunity to end myths about poverty

  • Government must acknowledge the hardship faced by the 13million people living in poverty

Last autumn Chancellor George Osborne claimed that he wasintroducing fairness to the welfare system. He said that it wasn't"fair" on hard-working people to see their neighbours' blinds down,sleeping away a life on benefits, when they were leaving for workin the morning. This "fairness" is now working its way through theHouse of Lords in the form of the controversial Welfare BenefitsUp-rating Bill which will push 200,000 additional children intopoverty, according to figures from The Children's Society.  

Paul Morrison, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church inBritain, said that the Chancellor's Budget this week must put rightprevious unjust rhetoric about people in poverty. "He has theopportunity to acknowledge the real hardship of the 13 millionpeople in poverty in the UK," Paul said. "Only when the truth isrecognised can just and fair policies be made."

A recent report by the Methodist Church in Britain, the United ReformedChurch, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Church ofScotland highlights a number of myths surrounding poverty in the UKtoday. One of the most destructive myths - fuelled by the image ofthe benefit claimant with the blinds down or the "shirker andstriver" rhetoric - is that people who live in poverty are lazy andwork shy. 

"The truth that needs to be acknowledged is that the majority ofchildren who grow up in poverty are in working households," saidMarie Trubic, the United Reformed Church Spokesperson for PublicIssues. "The truth that needs acknowledging is that the majority ofthe long-term workless are sick and disabled. The fact is that timespent on benefits is not an easy choice for the lazy, but alifeline; even for families in paid work." 

In defending the Welfare Benefits Up-Rating Bill, the Secretaryof State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, described thecreation of a welfare system that was "fair to the taxpayer" bycontrasting those who work hard and paid taxes with those whoreceive benefits.

Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader of the BaptistUnion of Great Britain, said: "The truth is people in poverty oftenwork. People on benefits often work. The poorest pay a higher rateof tax. In fact, the poorest pay the largest proportion of theirincome in tax than any other income group (38.2% for the bottomfifth of earners as opposed to 33.6% for the top fifth). Fairnessto the taxpayer is fairness to the poorest."

Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church of Scotland's Churchand Society Council, said: "The creation of a false divide betweenthose receiving benefits and those who paying into the system,encourages a destructive culture of "them and us". For the sake ofthe trusting, understanding and just society we all wish to livein, this has to stop.  We hope the Chancellor will use theBudget to end myths about poverty."