Campaign launched to give voice to people supported by benefits
The vast majority of people believe benefits are an important safety net for people in need, a new campaign has revealed today.
But one in four people who claim benefits have hidden the fact because they worry what people will think.
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. 81% agree that ‘benefits are an important safety net to support people when they need help’, while two-thirds (64%) 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%) of those who currently claim benefits say they have hidden this because of what people will think. This rises to half (47%) of 16-24 year olds who have been supported by benefits. And more than half (51%) 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 launches today, is asking people to share their stories. 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.
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.”
Who Benefits? asks politicians of all parties to do more to understand the lives of people who have been supported by benefits, as well as focus on the real reasons that people are struggling, like low wages, the high cost of living and the housing crisis.
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.”
Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “At Crisis we see every day how support from benefits lifts people out of homelessness, or prevents them from ending up on the streets in the first place. With this support we see people moving into work and on to a better life. Yet all too often the realities of people’s lives and situations are just ignored. That’s why we want people to get involved with Who Benefits? – to ensure real voices are heard.”
Fiona Weir, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, said: “None of us know what is around the corner for our family, which is why it can come as a huge blow to someone who’s already having a tough time to be labelled or stereotyped. It is great to see that the vast majority of the British public are behind giving support to those who need it, and we hope that our campaign will encourage more people to come forward to share their stories of how benefits have supported them.”
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.”
According to the Newcastle Journal (08 October 2013), “the North east is overwhelmingly in favour of a benefits crackdown, an exclusive Journal poll has revealed.”
As is usual with these kind of polls, this was not actually the view of an overwhelming proportion on the North East population, and not a random selection either – the “research” was conducted by a company called Other Lines Of Enquiry North who, we are told, “specialise in delivering quality insights to advertising, creative, design and PR agencies as well as directly to brands across the North of England.”
The people polled appear to have been part of their in-house panel, Panelbase, who get paid for their opinions – “Most surveys will carry rewards between £0.25 and £10 (depending on survey duration and complexity), which we will add directly to your panelbase.net account.” In fact you appear to get 3 quid just for signing up ! (https://www.panelbase.net/ if anyone wants to take advantage).
So, not the views of the average man/woman on the north east street then. And definitely not that sizeable portion reliant on welfare for survival.
“Some 66% of the region said they thought Britain was “soft” when it came to welfare, “ the Journal trumpeted nevertheless, ” lending support to the drive by Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to make it harder for people to claim.”
Of course, we’re not told what questions the paid poll-responders were actually asked. This could be quite crucial.
For example, if the question was ‘Do you think it would be right for people on benefits to get more than working people ?’ then obviously most people would say ‘no’ – despite the fact that
(a) people on benefits dont get more than those working, and
(b) the question didn’t actually claim they did
– but I suspect a sizeable number of those being polled would read it as “People on benefits get more than those working – is it right they do ?”
This dubious piece of public opinion also claimed “…almost 63% of the region thinks the long term jobless be made to do voluntary work for their benefits…”
Oxymoron alert ! You cant be made to do voluntary work. You either do it voluntarily, or you’re made to do it against your will, probably in this case by the threat of financial sanctions.
There was a rather vanilla token response from Catherine McKinnell (Labour, Newcastle North) – “People in the North East have the same strong work ethic as the rest of the country and it’s therefore unsurprising that this relatively small survey indicates a strong belief that benefits should not be handed out without good reason.
“However, I also know we are a compassionate region and care about the individual circumstances people find themselves in – and I know from my constituency surgeries how many people in genuine need are having support taken away from them by the current system.”
Unfortunately, what seems likely is that the “current system” – including “cracking down” on the worst off, would continue under more or less similar lines should Labour win the next election.