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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Stop playing to popular stigmas

This opinion piece is about 10 years old

Robert Armour argues that stigmatising the poor has a wide reaching impact on society as a whole

Times are tough for many families at the moment. The economy may be improving slowly but jobs are still uncertain and costs continue to rise. In that context, it is hardly surprising that many of us fight hard to hang on to what we have.

When times are tough, it is also very human to look for someone else to blame for our woes. It isn’t a very attractive tendency, but it is easy to do. The problem is that the group who are currently being blamed are already having the hardest time of all.

There’s a tendency to describe the less affluent in our society as lazy, morally bankrupt and a detriment to society. They’re invariably characterised as criminals, junkies and scroungers, intent on taking government handouts and giving little if anything back to society.

The problem is this now prevalent attitude often comes from elevated positions. It is ironic that in the same day a major poverty conference was taking place in Edinburgh looking at ways to challenge the stigma facing the less affluent, a senior civil servant was doing the precise opposite and putting the boot in at the Welfare Reform Committee in the Scottish Parliament.

These attitudes make Scotland a less generous, less sympathetic and less caring nation. It reduces the ability of the most vulnerable members of society to participate in that society, and makes it more difficult for them to help themselves.

People on benefits are an easy target, politically, they are often the least able to defend themselves. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, and it will have long-term impacts on society that we will come to regret deeply.