Truth and lies about poverty, benefits and welfare

Abstract

A new churches' report (published by by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, through their Joint Public Issues Team) shows how evidence and statistics have been misused, misrepresented and manipulated to create untruths that stigmatise poor people, welfare recipients and those in receipt of benefits. Ekklesia has not been involved in the commissioning or production of this report, but as a thinktank working on welfare issues and advocating a major shift of public policy towards the needs, concerns and skills of marginalised people in society, we are pleased to endorse and publicise it.

A new churches' report (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/truth_and_lies_report_final.pdf), published by by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church through their Joint Public Issues Team, shows how evidence and statistics have been misused, misrepresented and manipulated to create untruths that stigmatise poor people, welfare recipients and those in receipt of benefits.

Ekklesia has not been involved in the commissioning or production of this report, but as a thinktank working on welfare issues and advocating a major shift of public policy towards the needs, concerns and skills of marginalised people in society, we are pleased to endorse and publicise it.

The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty begins with a case study, 'Troubled Families and Troubled Statistics', showing how facts and evidence were bent to meet the needs of policymakers. The reputations of society’s most disadvantaged families became collateral damage in the rush to defend a new policy. "Perhaps we are not surprised by this but we should be appalled," the report says.

The selective untruths exposed in the report are:
1. ‘They’ are lazy and don’t want to work.
2. ‘They’ are addicted to drink and drugs.
3. ‘They’ are not really poor – they just don’t manage their money properly.
4. ‘They’ are on the fiddle.
5. ‘They’ have an easy life.
6. ‘They’ caused the deficit.

The producers of the report, written by Paul Morrison and published on 1 March 2013, conclude: "As a coalition of major British Churches, we want to create a new story; one grounded in truth, compassion and hope. Part of our calling as Christians is to seek after truth, and that means facing up to our own blindness as well as calling others to account. Collectively we have come to believe things about poverty in the UK which are not grounded in fact. We need to develop an understanding of the depth and breadth of UK poverty that is compatible with the evidence available. Just as importantly we need to match the language of public debate with the reality of people’s lives. It is a task we must approach with humility; one which puts the lived experience of poverty at its heart, and one which is committed to truthfulness – no matter how uncomfortable we find those truths to be. Please join with us in this challenge."

* You can read the full report here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/truth_and_lies_report_final.pdf