Poor being stigmatised by welfare debate says minister

STEREOTYPES of the poor and the language often used to describe them needs to be challenged, Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty Vaughan Gething warns.

The Minister has hit out at the way the debate on welfare reform has perpetuated myths about some of the most disadvantaged in society and has called for a more reasoned and measured discussion about the issue of poverty and those who need support.

Speaking ahead of an Oxfam Cymru event at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay about the language used about poverty, he said: "Some of the language we have seen and heard in recent times about the poor, especially those who receive benefits, has at best been misleading and at worst vile. The UK Government’s controversial welfare reforms seem to have given some a green-light to denigrate and deride some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised in our society. This is something we should not tolerate.

"Those who receive help from the state to deal with the challenges of their daily lives are the people you may have worked with only yesterday who have lost a job or a member of your family if they become ill tomorrow.

"People receiving unemployment support are not suddenly transformed from being a ‘scrounger’ to a ‘striver’ the minute they get a job. Those receiving help to pay for their housing or to support their income are not a drag or burden on the country. They are an example of how we, as a civilised society, support our fellow citizens in times of need.

"We must remember the impact this kind of language has on real people doing all they can to make ends meet and support their families. We must not let a divide between those who receive benefits and those who don’t become the norm. Creating a ‘them and us’ culture will damage us all.

"The fact is the majority of the money we spend on welfare goes to pensioners and working families. Those living in poverty or on the breadline do not opt for that lifestyle. We must not allow some of the most vulnerable people to become stigmatised and isolated through ill informed opinion and divisive language. That is not the society we should be working towards and none of us should tolerate it.

"We recognise that the biggest challenge that we face is not the unemployed. The biggest challenge that we face is unemployment. We will continue to do all we can to help people cope with the welfare changes being imposed by the UK Government, but we will also challenge the stereotypes and myths about those who have to rely on social security."

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