Policy debate about benefits needs to focus on 'real people', not stereotypes

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A new campaign launched by the Child Poverty Action Group is calling on the Government to ensure that the benefits debate focuses on the needs of ordinary families.

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The ‘People Like Us’ campaign has sent an open letter to the three main political parties asking them to concentrate on ‘real people, real families and real children’ in need when debating social security, rather than perpetuating negative stereotypes of benefits claimants.

The letter also invites party leaders to watch a short film entitled ‘It Could Be You’, in which three parents talk about benefits.

Jack, a parent receiving out of work benefits, is shown saying, ‘I think if you make these cuts now, especially where children are concerned, at the very beginnings of their lives, you’ll be picking up the bill for it a couple of decades down the line. Because my son is three years old now, how they can justify making him a little bit colder, a little bit hungrier, and his home a little bit less secure, I don’t know how they can justify it.’

Polls carried out as part of the campaign suggest that 69 per cent of people believe that the coalition government does not understand the concerns of people on low incomes.

The research, produced by YouGov on behalf of the charity, also shows that 59 per cent of people do not believe that the benefits system would provide enough support if they lost their job. Just 34 per cent of those polled believed that they would receive the help they needed from the system if they had a first or additional child.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of CPAG, said, 'The shocking truth about "Benefits Britain" is that people receiving benefits are just like us. Perfectly ordinary UK families rely on benefits and tax credits to provide an income to live on or to top up low pay, but our political debate lets them down.'

She added, 'People Like Us is about the desperate need for a benefit debate that’s based on the needs of ordinary families. It’s only from a sensible debate, not politicians pushing ridiculous stereotypes, that we will actually get the policies that promote jobs, tackle low pay, promote affordable housing and childcare and help families with the added cost of children.'

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