openDemocracyUK

Media backlash over benefits ignores the real losers

The media outrage over the reduction in child benefit for higher rate taxpayers has not been matched by concern at the cap on benefits for workless families.
Stuart Weir
6 October 2010

Perhaps those political scientists who will tell you that the influence or power of the media is negligible may care to ponder on the events of the past few days. The day after George Osborne announced that higher-rate taxpayers would lose child benefit, the Tory press unleashed a barrage of outrage on behalf of couples with non-working wives and other middle-class (or rich?) people who would lose out. Television, radio and newspapers at once sought out potential victims of this "rough justice" and interviews with them crowded news and current affairs channels and newspaper articles. Already ministers are wriggling frantically and suggesting remedies more costly than the savings the original proposal would have yielded, and utterly regressive in their impact.
Contrast this explosion of concern with the reception for the proposal to cap the benefits of workless families at £500 a week. Families with three or more children living in central London will, for example, be reduced to trying to live on £100 a week without the benefit of a winter fuel allowance. In effect working class families will be driven out of London and city centres to suburbs in which there is scarcely any social housing, or be subjected to the humiliating processes of seeking emergency accommodation with their local authority. It is estimated that 250,000 people are at risk of losing homes or being forced to move.

I don't know about you, but I have't seen or heard a single interview with any of the potential victims of this dreadful prospect which is apparently aimed deliberately at driving workless famlies out of central London and forcing down private rent levels. I appreciate that the potential victims of a poorly thought out initiative to save money on child benefit will suffer "unfairly",  but they are at least spared the devastating consequences of the £500 a week cap on family benefits for out of work people who have far less to fall back on.

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