Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore 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’.
Sheila Gilmore MP at the Who Benefits? Parliamentary Launch
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.
Sheila Gilmore MP, who attended the launch of the campaign in Westminster, said:
None of us know what lies around the corner.
At the launch of this campaign I met a woman in her fifties, who had never had to claim social security benefits in her life until she was diagnosed with cancer. She had to give up the small business she had been running. The benefits she has been able to claim have been a lifeline.
Although she found the process of being tested and retested for eligibility stressful, she is now recovering. However even though she lives in an area of relatively low unemployment, because of her age and health she is struggling to find work.
Her story is an important reminder of why we need a system of social security.
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.
- For more information on Who Benefits?, to arrange an interview or for details of case studies, please contact The Children’s Society on 020 7841 4422 or email@example.com
- For more information on Sheila Gilmore MP please contact Matt Brennan, Parliamentary Assistant to Sheila Gilmore MP, on 020 7219 7062, 07742 986 513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editor
- The Who Benefits? campaign is giving a voice to people who have been supported by benefits at some point in their lives. It uses real stories to show the reality of who needs help, why they need it and the difference it makes. It was brought together by The Children’s Society, Crisis, Gingerbread, Macmillan Cancer Support and Mind. In addition, 75 charities, faith groups and community groups support the campaign.
- To find our more about the campaign or to tell your own story please visit www.whobenefits.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @WeAllBenefit
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,955 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th – 19th September 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).