Hundreds of thousands of poor, sick and disabled people say they have been put off applying for or collecting benefits because of the perceived stigma generated by false media depictions of “scroungers” – leading many to forgo essentials such as food and fuel, a new report by the Elizabeth Finn Care Trust claims.
The media is often blamed for levels of stigma in Britain. The report analysed media coverage of benefits in national newspapers from 1995 to 2011 found that while newspapers contain both positive and negative representations of claimants, the content of press stories is indeed skewed towards negative representations.
Benefit stigma in Britain is primarily driven by the perception that claimants are ‘undeserving’. The majority of disability benefit claimants say their disability is not visible to people who first meet them.
The report concludes with recommendations on the design of the benefits system; benefits delivery; the media; and public messages about benefits.
Report: Benefits stigma in Britain
Guardian article: ‘Scrounger’ stigma puts people off applying for essential benefits