Statistics and lies

Second week gone

Below is a part of an email I received this week, embargoed until this morning…………………

A report which will be published on Friday 1 March, “The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty”, along with the associated media release.

The hard-hitting report has been produced by the Joint Public Issues Team on behalf of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland. We have described the purpose of the report as follows in a letter to every MP and MSP:

“We have written the report because we are concerned that much of the debate around poverty and welfare bears no relation to the lives of those served by our churches in communities up and down the country, and indeed stigmatises some of the most vulnerable in society. A number of myths which blame the poor for their poverty have gained currency. For example, the ugly rhetoric of “skivers” and “shirkers” implies that all those in receipt of benefits are lazy; yet the majority of children and families who experience poverty do so in spite of being in paid employment.

We describe these as “comfortable myths” about poverty because it is much more reassuring to blame the poor for individual failings and bad personal decisions than to look at what our society needs to do to combat poverty. We believe the debate concerning the poorest in society should reflect the reality of poverty. Our report shows that evidence about poverty is being misreported and misused. We think that the least the poor can expect is that their position is represented honestly and accurately.”

We recognise that these are difficult economic times and that any government will need to change tax and spending patterns in response. However, we do not think that the country’s most vulnerable people should be abused to justify particular policy proposals. Churches across the country are responding to the needs of people in poverty through foodbanks, day centres and debt advice. We believe that we also have a moral responsibility to build a more just and understanding society.

There will be more information available at, where people can email their MP directly to ask them to read the report, commit not to use stigmatising language, and raise concerns with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Next week we will be launching materials for use by churches as part of this campaign.

You may already have seen some of the social media “teasers” for the campaign with the hashtag #liesaboutpoverty. This will continue after the launch and we will be encouraging people to tweet and facebook about some of the myths and lies told about people in poverty.

I hope that this will be a really exciting campaign which will challenge the way that people in poverty are viewed, and promote the values of social justice

It is encouraging to know that the Churches are taking the issue of poverty seriously, and this report is so timely; just as the RBS bank has announced huge bonus`. Yes there will be some in poverty who will meet the description of skivers, lazy, scroungers but its too easy to attack people at that end of the spectrum, and not apply similar verbal abuse to the `fat cats` and their tax avoidance schemes and their bonus`. The old adage of not criticising someone unless you`ve walked a mile in their shoes is so true (hence the opening photo)

It feels as though the current government are determined to take us back to Victorian times with its position of the haves denigrating the have-nots ! I don’t want to be part of a society that delivers wide-ranging condemnation of a whole swathe of society without knowing the individuals concerned or their circumstances. I believe that the majority WANT to work, consider benefits demeaning and are anything but work-shy and so I object when all benefit claimants are lumped together under verbal abuse

I urge anyone who can to look up and find out for themselves the context of this report.