By Dr. Kayleigh Garthwaite
For the past three years, I have been studying the lives of long-term sickness benefits recipients in North East England, U.K. as part of my PhD research. In that time, government policy has increasingly distinguished between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ in relation to sick and disabled people. Yet it is not only policy that makes that distinction.
In recent years, the media have taken a more vitriolic stance towards sick and disabled people, often branding them deeply offensive terms such as ‘scum’, ‘feckless’, and ‘work-shy’ (Garthwaite 2011). A comparable discourse is evident not only in political debates and the mass media, but also when considering public opinion. Polls show unsurprising support for welfare reform plans, signalling the public’s negative view towards benefits and people who receive them. For example, an IPSOS Mori poll carried out for the BBC published in October 2011 revealed that although a resounding 92 percent of British people wanted a benefits system providing a safety net for all, 63 percent doubted the U.K. benefits system works effectively, 72 percent wanted politicians to do more to cut the benefits bill, and 84 percent wanted to see stricter testing for sickness benefits. Read More »