There is a campaign underway to demonise benefit claimants, Andy Burnham says

The leadership frontrunner says perceptions of unfairness in the welfare state need to be addressed

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There is a campaign underway in the UK to “demonise” people who claim welfare benefits, one of the candidates for the leadership of the Labour party has said.

Andy Burnham told a BBC hustings event last night that he wanted to tackle perceived unfairness in the welfare state but that this did not mean picking on vulnerable claimants.

“If people feel that people are getting more in benefits than people are getting in wages that could undermine public trust in the principles of the welfare state. That has to be addressed,” he told his audience.

“But there’s something different going on here … there is a campaign underway here to demonise people who claim benefits.”

He said he would fight changes that saw disabled people having the benefits taken away, describing recent government measures as “cruel”.

The shadow health secretary said the answer to bringing the benefits bill down was “more secure jobs, more homes for people” with the aim of reducing unemployment and housing benefit payments.

The intervention comes after criticism of the television programme "Benefits Street" and sustained reporting of unusual benefits cases in the tabloid press.

Mr Burnham’s suggestion that people should not receive more in benefits than they do in wages could be a hint that he supports the Government’s benefit cap.


The leadership frontunner was jeered at an event earlier this month when he appeared to dodge a question about whether he would support it. Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have openly said they would support the policy.

At the last election Labour said it supported the benefit cap in principle but shied away from supporting its reduction from £26,000 to £23,000.

Under the leadership of interim leader Harriet Harman the party has moved to support the lower cap but said there should be measures in place to ensure it did not increase homelessness or child poverty.

The party’s support for the cap comes after research suggesting it has a negative impact on families, especially those with children.

The annual Homelessness Monitor survey by the charity Crisis and the anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found in February this year that the benefit cap was linked with rising homelessness, especially in London.