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British society is becoming increasingly intolerant of unemployed and disabled people, according to academics at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI).

A study by the University of Sheffield has found there is a growing sense that unemployment is caused by individuals’ personal failings, rather than by structural problems in the economy.

People tend to believe that work is plentiful, and that unemployment was therefore a lifestyle choice, rather than an imposition, and that poverty therefore results from moral deficiencies.

The research also highlighted an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with participants questioning the legitimacy of benefits for disabled people deemed incapable of working.

It is clear that the derogatory term ‘chav’ remains in popular usage. Middle class research participants tended to identify and condemn ‘chav’ culture so as to validate and re-affirm their own superior social position. Working class respondents were more likely to identify and condemn ‘chav’ culture in order to distinguish themselves from it.

We appear to be witnessing the re-emergence of traditional distinctions between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, associated with the Victorian era.

This research identifies contemporary attitudes to the unemployed by drawing on a series of case studies conducted in Leeds, in Northern England. The evidence presented here is based on 90 interviews which were conducted with participants from a variety of different social classes and ethnic backgrounds.

The Coalition government’s welfare policies are in part a response to the kind of popular prejudices identified in the research. However, government rhetoric on welfare ‘scroungers’ is likely to reinforce these attitudes – focussing blame for poverty on individuals rather than on wider structural problems in Britain’s increasingly low-pay, low-skill economy.

There is in fact a danger that misplaced fears and prejudices relating to welfare claimants will present a threat to social cohesion, potentially legitimising policies which might exacerbate, rather than alleviate, social inequality.

Professor Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield and author of the report, said: “The evidence is mounting that the coalition government’s austerity agenda has been targeted at the poorest groups in society rather than the most affluent.

“This research shows that this is reinforcing prejudicial and intolerant attitudes towards the most disadvantaged members of society, as the government has been successful in individualising the causes of poverty and unemployment, and marginalising the socio-economic determinants of hardship.”

You can download the report from the Sheffield University website

Comments  

+1 #11 Chris Sterry 2014-11-23 22:11
It is both Government and media who are downing benefit claimants and people who are disabled and many of the public are believing them.

Mainly when there is any benefit or disability programme on TV it is showing how the majority are not entitled to the benefits and this is way out of proportion to the actual minority who are not entitled.

Both the Government and the media should come clean and not mislead the public.
+1 #10 gordyt 2014-11-21 23:58
Gordon T

I worked everyday with exception of minor illnesses and a 7 day unemployment period due to the interviewer being off ill, since I left school.

While still working I suffered with pain for 10 years before my GP sent me for investigations, the result was Spine and Nerve damage that could not be reversed.
I was told then I would struggle to hold down a job which proved to be the case and my life of misery commenced.

Let me assure anyone from the other side reading this, if you think I wanted to give up a very good well paid job that I enjoyed with great perks for a life on Benefit Street, your having a laugh.

Benefits are not what they are cracked up to be.
+1 #9 Kate 2014-11-20 16:48
Divide and rule, the oldest trick in the book. Human nature being what it is, it usually works. Inhumane is the only word I can think of to describe this government's attitude and the philosophy that drives their policy on the sick and disabled.

I agree with all the comments so far. We have an national insurance scheme that is meant to provide a safety net for those in need - the compassionate and humane response of a society that cares about those less fortunate. Why is it so difficult for many of the so-called "decent, hard-working people" to appreciate this?
+2 #8 Terry Fegan 2014-11-20 15:03
I my Unqualified Opinion It all is starting to look a bit like Germany before the last war.
Hitler victimised the Disabled and Vilified those that did not fit his idear of a good society. IDS is in danger of seting the same trends. We need to be Carefull
+6 #7 LibbyWick 2014-11-12 15:49
It makes me so cross (I suspect some might say "change the record Libby"). I worked full-time for 35 years. Raising a daughter on my own. I never claimed any benefit. For 35 years I paid income tax and national insurance as well as all the other taxes imposed on us. More and more taxes rising higher and higher all the time. I've contributed to the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and pensions for all of that time. Now I am sick. My employers of 20 years had to let me go. Surely I am entitled to support. Surely no one could call me, and all those like me, benefits scroungers! It took almost 2 years to work through all the obstacles in front of me to finally have ESA and PIP awarded. It seems those who believe I am a scrounger feel that benefits are handed out willy nilly. I can attest to the fact that, certainly from my point of view, that just isn't true. I was a long and arduous road. As the old saying goes "... walk a mile in their shoes"
+4 #6 tintack 2014-11-11 23:39
Quote:
i recently went to an apeal with a friend who was trying to get houseing benifit reinstated after it was stopped for no reason, i was shocked when she was told by a so called independant judge (exact words) why should we the tax payers pay to keep people like you on benifits. sadly as an apeal it was not written or recorded. i will never forget this.
I wonder if that comment might constitute grounds for appeal. A judge is supposed to be independent, but that remark proves that in this case the judge made a decision based on his/her own prejudice. I know it would be difficult to appeal if there's no record, though I would have thought that surely some sort of record would have been made?
+5 #5 DELLBOY 2014-11-11 22:47
i recently went to an apeal with a friend who was trying to get houseing benifit reinstated after it was stopped for no reason, i was shocked when she was told by a so called independant judge (exact words) why should we the tax payers pay to keep people like you on benifits. sadly as an apeal it was not written or recorded. i will never forget this.
+5 #4 tintack 2014-11-11 20:30
And remember, the gullible public which has swallowed the propaganda whole is the same public which claims not to believe what it reads in the papers. Oh really?
+4 #3 angela 2014-11-11 15:45
This is just the response this government was looking for after years of
being told all on any kind of benefit are nothing but lazy scum now the public finally belives it I only hope these people one day find themselves in need maybe there so call working friends wont be there for them see how they like the tag
+5 #2 stuart52 2014-11-11 09:19
well said tintack, I really couldn't have put it better myself, remember too for the past few years all the government sponsored anti-benefit programs on all the networks, they were obviously designed to drive home the message that benefit recipients disabled or unemployed are scum, and its worked well for them as the above research shows, indeed as tintack put people should take a little time to think"what if I am out of work for whatever reason"? But they wont because the public are in some ways stupid and will continue to swallow the propaganda.
+10 #1 tintack 2014-11-10 15:22
It's no wonder the government refuses to consider any significant reform of the WCA. As this article shows, much of the public has swallowed the anti-claimant propaganda. Apparently these people can't imagine the possibility that one day it might be them who lose their jobs or fall ill. Only if/when it happens to them will they find out the hard way that they've been duped.

This bit:

The research also highlighted an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with participants questioning the legitimacy of benefits for disabled people deemed incapable of working.

is extremely disturbing. So, making sure those incapable of work have enough money to avoid starvation is not legitimate? Seriously? Well, if there are people who really do believe that, perhaps they should have a disabling illness inflicted on them that prevents them from working, be denied benefits (remember, those benefits are apparently not "legitimate") and see how they cope. Not very well would be my guess.

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