Why does the UK still have such a shameful attitude to poverty and benefits? | Polly Toynbee
Study after study explodes the myth of the benefit ‘scrounger’. Sympathy is growing – but apparently not among Tories
- This article is part of a series, the heat or eat diaries: dispatches from the frontline of Britain’s cost of living emergency
What is the matter with this country? A rising tide of poor families is cast into deeper deprivation because of the meanness of Britain’s benefits system and our punitive public attitudes. We have mislaid what George Orwell thought was our “common decency”, in a culture where politicians and the media have conspired for years to stir up fear of the moral hazards of paying benefits to “scroungers”, damping down public sympathy for misfortune.
That’s why our benefits are now more stringently unsurvivable than at any time since the 1930s, according to The Transformation of British Welfare Policy, by Tom O’Grady, associate professor of political science at University College London. That alarming regression is what happens when the government takes a staggering £37bn out of the benefits system, targeting its austerity cuts on those who can least afford to bear them.
Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist