DUNCAN BARKES: It’s wrong to demonise those claiming benefits

People on benefits are scroungers just fleecing the system... the increase in food bank usage is simply down to those who spend their money on non-essentials instead…

Friday, 31st January 2014, 5:00 am

These are clearly ridiculous suggestions, yet increasingly there seems to be a growing demonisation of people who seek help from the state or from charities.

One of the main causes of this growing hatred towards anyone on benefits seems to be the ample amounts of ‘poverty porn’ that is served up by elements of the media.

A current example is Benefits Street, the Channel 4 programme that features some of the residents of a Birmingham street. Many of them do not work and recent scenes have included participants explaining how to shoplift.

Much has been written about this show and even MPs have passed comment on it, which is highly worrying.

Such programmes are utterly contrived and edited in such a way to create maximum impact, yet many viewers have now concluded this is how all people on benefits behave.

If you seriously take this TV programme at face value and believe it represents all those out of work and claiming benefits, then you are an idiot.

As with anything in life, there will always be people who take the mickey out of the system and I am in no doubt there are some who are quite wrongly in receipt of benefits and who are breaking the law.

They should, of course, face the penalties. But to say this is representative of the majority is ignorant.

It is like suggesting that every teacher is having an affair with a pupil; that every doctor is a Harold Shipman; that every MP fiddles their expenses. Ludicrous in the extreme, yet many people are still branding all those on benefits as lazy scroungers.

Edwina Currie took it a step further last week, suggesting in an interview that those using food banks spend their money on dog food and tattoos instead.

Usage of food banks has increased massively over the last year and Edwina’s reasoning behind this is highly insulting to both those who use these facilities out of desperation and to the many excellent charities that run them.

Bashing those on benefits has become a new national sport, fuelled by carefully constructed programmes and articles. The real danger is that so many appear to be falling for the propaganda.

Child benefit, tax credits, the state pension, the winter fuel allowance – all are provided by the welfare state and are a form of benefit. If you are tempted to demonise those on benefits, think long and hard. Chances are you are a recipient of a benefit yourself. Would you class yourself as a scrounger?