On Friday 15 December, The Sun published a front-page story about a mum on benefits who was spending £2,000 on her kids’ Christmas presents. VoxPolitical said this “revives [the] ‘benefit scrounger’ lie to smooth over DWP’s bad publicity”. And one Twitter user described it as a piece of “vile journalism”.
The purpose of the story
This front-page story peddled the stereotype of benefits claimants being ‘scroungers’. The Sun consistently publishes these sorts of articles. Back in 2015, the paper included a ‘disgusting’ feature called ‘The Welfies‘, which claimed to recognise the UK’s biggest “scroungers and dossers”. Tom London on Twitter suggested the paper had a goal in mind. He said:
What is the purpose of this front page if not to encourage people to hate people on benefits?
He also said it makes people “less likely to be angry about… the tax cheating of people like Rupert Murdoch who owns The Sun”. Of course, the paper doesn’t report that. Murdoch has a long history of avoiding paying tax.
Also, as another Twitter user points out:
When you actually read the story it says she saves her benefits all year and doesn’t spend money on herself so she can do this for her kids.
Benefits are *for* allowing people to live in dignity and not at some sort of subsistence bread and water life, while she makes sacrifices and saves them all year for Christmas.
But The Sun‘s headline doesn’t paint this picture of a mother doing the best for her children with the resources she has, using benefits she is entitled to.
Mike Sivier at VoxPolitical argues that:
The editors of The Sun have run this story because the Department for Work and Pensions has been shown up for denying benefits to people who deserve them, in order to meet a quota.
As The Independent reports, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officials have a ‘target’ to reject 80% of benefit appeals.
DWP workers were recently awarded £44m in bonuses for ‘good performance’. But The Canary has previously reported how the DWP has been performing poorly in its roll-out of Universal Credit. Former prime minister John Major has called the benefit “operationally messy”.
While DWP civil servants are getting bonuses, vulnerable people are struggling; either due to sanctions or being denied benefits altogether. But The Sun has decided to focus on benefit claimants as currently being the most significant problem with the welfare system.
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