Some 13 million people, including 3.6 million children, are living in poverty in the UK, a report claims today.
The Lies We Tell Ourselves, published by several different church groups, says evidence and statistics have been misused, misrepresented and manipulated by politicians to create myths that blame and stigmatise the most vulnerable in society.
"It would be comfortable for many if we lived in a society where poverty only visited families that were lazy or made bad decisions," said Paul Morrison, the author of the report. "That is the story these myths lead us to believe; but that's not the Britain we live in today. It's convenient to believe that benefits are too generous. It's convenient to believe that claimants are on the fiddle or even more absurdly caused our economic troubles. But it's just not true."
Neil's story – included in the report – is typical. A long-distance lorry driver until ill-health forced him to give up work, he is now in danger of losing his home because of the Government's planned benefit reforms.
"I always worked, but I can no longer afford that luxury," Neil said. "Benefit changes reduce my ability to eat properly. I can't afford to keep the fridge on all the time, and I can't afford to heat my home all the time."
Mr Morrison warns: "The very least the most vulnerable in our society deserve is to be spoken of truthfully and with respect. Anything less is to be complicit in a great injustice."