In 1753 John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, “So wickedly, devilishly false is that common objection, ‘They are poor, only because they are idle’.” Yet today many churchgoers and members of the general public alike have come to believe that the key factors driving poverty in the UK are the personal failings of the poor – especially ‘idleness’. How did this come about?
The myths exposed in this report, reinforced by politicians and the media, are convenient because they allow the poor to be blamed for their poverty, and the rest of society to avoid taking any of the responsibility. Myths hide the complexity of the true nature of poverty in the UK. They enable dangerous policies to be imposed on whole sections of society without their full consequences being properly examined. This report aims to highlight some comfortable myths, show how they have come to prominence and test them against serious evidence.
Churches have a special interest in speaking truthfully about poverty. Both the biblical warnings of the prophets and the example of Jesus teach us to pay special attention to the voices of the most vulnerable and underprivileged. The systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society is a matter of injustice which all Christians have a responsibility to challenge.
The report 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 myths challenged are not a comprehensive list but were chosen because of their prominence in public debate, and their widespread acceptance.
For a pdf of the full report click here