Truth and Lies about Poverty - a pocket guide
1. ‘They’ are lazy and don’t want to work
The most commonly cited cause of child poverty by churchgoers and the general public alike is that
“their parents don’t want to work”. Yet the majority of children in poverty are from working households.
In work poverty is now more common than out of work poverty. It is readily believed that across the
country there are families in which three generations have never worked, and this is used as the
argument behind welfare policies. However the report shows that examples of such families have not
been found, and the evidence suggests it is unlikely they ever will be.
2. ‘They’ are addicted to drink and drugs
Churchgoers and the wider public cite addiction as the second most common cause of child poverty.
While addiction is devastating for the families and communities touched by it, fewer than 4% of benefit
claimants report any form of addiction.
3. ‘They’ are not really poor – they just don’t manage their money properly
Nearly 60% of the UK population agrees that the poor could cope if only they handled their money
properly. The experience of living on a low income is one of constant struggle to manage limited
resources, with small events having serious consequences. Statistics show that the poorest spend their
money carefully, limiting themselves to the essentials.
4. They’ are on the fiddle
Over 80% of the UK population believe that “large numbers falsely claim benefits”. Benefit fraud has
decreased to historically low levels -the kind of levels that the tax system can only dream of. Less
than 0.9% of the welfare budget is lost to fraud. In fact if everyone claimed and was paid correctly, the
welfare system would cost around £18 billion more than it presently does.
5. ‘They’ have an easy life
Over half the British public believes benefits are too high and churchgoers tend to agree. Government
ministers speak of families opting for benefits as a lifestyle choice. Yet we know that benefits do not
meet minimum income standards. They have halved in value relative to average incomes over the last
30 years. We know the ill and the unemployed are the people least satisfied and happy with life.
6. ‘They’ caused the deficit
The proportion of our tax bills spent on welfare has remained stable for the last 20
years. It is ridiculous to argue, as some have, that increasing welfare spending is
responsible for the current deficit. Public debt is
a problem but why is it being laid at
the feet of the poorest?