Damaging rhetoric which suggests that claiming benefits is a ‘lifestyle choice’ is ‘rubbish’, says The Scottish Church and Society Council.
In a strong worded statement, Church and Society Council convener Rev Sally Foster-Fulton challenged the stigmatisation of benefit claimants and the UK government’s rhetoric of blaming poor people for their own poverty.
She said low-income families, young people and those with mental health problems are being unfairly penalised by welfare reforms and urged the UK government to ‘stop using hunger as a punishment’, and suspend controversial benefit sanctions pending a full independent review.
Rev Sally Foster-Fulton said: “We are challenging the stigma of poverty, confronting the dangerous rhetoric that blames the poor for their poverty dismissing them as strivers and skivers, enjoying a benefits lifestyle. Rubbish!
“These unfair definitions divide and diminish us all and pit us one against the other. We become suspicious rather than supportive. We need justice, not judgment.”
The political climate in Scotland is changing after the Scottish National Party (SNP) fought an election campaign based on an anti-austerity message.
“It is vital that we all recognise over the last year Scotland has begun to grow into a different sort of democracy, one that is no longer content simply to vote every few years and leave the decisions to others.
These are exciting and uncertain times”, said Rev Foster-Fulton.
She called for an urgent reform of the tax and welfare system in response to the number of Scots suffering benefit sanctions, low wages and increasing reliance on food banks.