Aberdeen South MP, Dame Anne Begg, has given her support to a campaign which aims to give a voice to the millions of people supported by benefits at some point in their lives.
Polling by the campaign, Who Benefits?, has revealed overwhelming public support for the principle that benefits should be there for those who need them. 81 percent agree that ‘benefits are an important safety net to support people when they need help’, while two-thirds (64 percent) agree that ‘we all benefit as a society when support from benefits is available for those that need it’.
But despite widespread public support, more than a quarter (27 percent) of those who currently claim benefits say they have hidden this because of what people will think. This rises to half (47 percent) of 16-24 year olds who have been supported by benefits. And more than half (51 percent) of all those who had never been supported by benefits said they would feel embarrassed to claim.
Who Benefits? argues that the overwhelming majority of those on benefits really need the support, yet too often their voices are ignored, misrepresented or at worst they are blamed for their situation. The campaign has been launched by more than 70 charities and community groups brought together by The Children’s Society, Crisis, Gingerbread, Macmillan Cancer Support and Mind.
Dame Anne Begg MP, who attended the launch of the campaign in Westminster, said: “I’ve seen firsthand how the vast majority of those supported by benefits really need that help, so it is great that Who Benefits? is helping give them a voice.
“People from all kinds of backgrounds need help from benefits at some point in their lives and most don’t come into contact with the benefits system until something has gone wrong in their life. A little can go a long way in improving someone’s situation.
“I’d encourage those in receipt of benefits to support this campaign and share their own stories, so the debate on benefits reflects their experiences.”
Who Benefits? is asking people to share their stories through whobenefits.org.uk. A thousand people who have been supported by benefits have already shared their stories through the website and through social media with the hashtag #WeAllBenefit.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Life is full of ups and downs, it can be unpredictable. But no one should go hungry because they lose their job or go into debt because they are on such a low wage. And it is reassuring to see that the public support this view.
“At a time when families up and down the country are feeling the squeeze, it is important – now more than ever – that society supports those in need. The overwhelming majority of people who get benefits really need them; whether they are working, looking for work or unable to work.”
Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “At Crisis we see every day how support from benefits lifts people out of homelessness, or prevents them from ending up on the streets in the first place. With this support we see people moving into work and on to a better life. Yet all too often the realities of people’s lives and situations are just ignored. That’s why we want people to get involved with Who Benefits? – to ensure real voices are heard.”
Fiona Weir, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, said: “None of us know what is around the corner for our family, which is why it can come as a huge blow to someone who’s already having a tough time to be labelled or stereotyped. It is great to see that the vast majority of the British public are behind giving support to those who need it, and we hope that our campaign will encourage more people to come forward to share their stories of how benefits have supported them.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Support from benefits makes a huge difference to the lives of many people with mental health problems, allowing people to stay well and retain their independence; or help with the additional costs that come from having a disability.
“Lots of individuals with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination, as their condition is less visible than a physical disability. These new statistics suggest those who claim benefits experience double the stigma.”