Scroungers, shirkers, strivers, workshy… all horribly insulting names certain wealthy individuals insist on calling the poorest in society

…but none of it is founded. York’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation has recently completed a study into work and poverty, which exposes that the problem isn’t motivation to work, but the ‘low-pay, no-pay’ jobs market. The Guardian article on the study reads:

“A new study… which set out to see whether cultures of worklessness helped explain long-term unemployment in families across generations, dispels any notion that this is the case.”

The study focuses in on families where long-term worklessness spans two generations. Such families account for less than 1% of workless households. They interviewed the families in depth and concluded:

“The long-term worklessness of parents in these families was a result of the impact of complex, multiple problems associated with living in deep poverty over years (particularly related to ill health). In an already tight labour market, these problems combined to place them at the back of a long queue for jobs.”

Lets contrast the Guardian with an article on a similar subject from the Telegraph: Seven ‘workshy’ benefits claimants fail to turn up for first day at work (Telegraph, 26 Apr 2012)

The Telegraph concentrates on bashing “work shy layabouts”, who “did not want to come out in the rain only to lose their payouts.” Mr Carl Cooper, quoted in the article, appears unaware that those who are fired through misconduct, such as not turning up for work, cannot continue to claim Job Seekers Allowance for a set period. The article reserves the revelation that the DWP “could not confirm the seven people were benefits claimants” to the very end.

But what exactly is going on here (other than farce)? The article also states:

“Workers at the company receive a basic retainer of £100 a week initially…”

The company in question is based in Canterbury, Kent. The average weekly rent in Canterbury for one room shared accommodation (the cheapest type) is £75.96/week, which if on £100/week leaves only £24.04 for bills and food. Many people in this sort of accommodation fail to claim housing benefit when between jobs; it is easy to see how people can end up getting pushed into poverty.

It’s true however, that there is a small minority who take all they can and give nothing back – people who believe it’s right to avoid as much tax as possible and claim as many benefits as possible. Notable examples include: George Osborne, a millionaire who shamelessly collects child benefit; the directors of Starbucks UK, who avoided paying all corporation tax for the last three years despite making profits; and Boris Johnson who defended Starbucks’ contempt of the tax system. These are the ones who really are guilty for indulging in a culture of greed.

But what can we do about it? York Stop the Cuts exists to challenge the status-quo that it is the poor who are to blame. It is bizarre that the poorest in society are the ones being made to pay for a financial crisis caused by the notoriously rich finance sector. But the government cannot operate without popular support. If we work together we can change it.

The first thing you can do, right away, to help stop the madness, is sign the WOW petition. This is a petition to stop the War On Welfare, please see the petition site for more info.

Also, we need help to organise and run campaigns, and we really appreciate input, even if it’s just ideas. Please consider joining our newsletter list to be kept up to date with what we’re doing (one email per week). You can email us at or even give us a call on 07980 316 414. Our Upcoming Events page contains the date of our next organising meeting. And do feel free to ask any questions.

Members of York Stop the Cuts protesting against workfare outside of Tescos, Merchantgate, York. Workfare is a forced work scheme paid for by the tax payer which exploits the unemployed, making profits for large companies like Tescos. The protest was part of a week of action called by the national Boycott Workfare campaign.


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