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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Media urged to be honest on poverty

A national ecumenical Christian social justice charity has urged the media to report the truth about poverty in the UK instead of “spreading myths and stereotypes”.

Niall Cooper, director of
Church Action on Poverty, also reminded Christians of their responsibility to hold the media and politicians accountable for their actions.

The call comes as Emma Hardy, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, attacked programmes depicting poverty, branding them “poverty porn” and warning that they normalise the idea of the “deserving and the undeserving poor”.

Mr Cooper said Church Action on Poverty knows from its own work with people struggling against poverty how hard it is, not just to make ends meet, but also to cope with being blamed and shamed.

“Large numbers of people have been swept into poverty in recent years by a toxic combination of benefit cuts, low pay and increasing prices,” Mr Cooper told The Catholic Universe. “Instead of spreading myths and stereotypes, its high time that the media started to report the truth about poverty in the UK.

“Our responsibility, as Christians, is to speak truth to power, and to hold the media and politicians accountable for their actions,” he added.

Speaking in the Commons during a recent debate on the Queen’s Speech, Ms Hardy admitted that there is “a creeping normalisation of poverty and struggle”.
“We retreat and only speak to those who act and speak like us, our social media reinforces the views of those who we already agree with by the algorithms with which they use, and we have become conveniently blind to the reality that so many people face,” she said.

“The Channel 5 programmes put out their ‘poverty porn’ programmes every single week, rebuilding this narrative there is somehow a difference between the deserving and the undeserving poor.

“We look down on the undeserving poor as people lacking aspiration, people having a poor work ethic until the moment it happens to somebody we love. Until they hit the rocks. Until life happens.”

Ms Hardy called for more to be done to boost public services, and said there should be an increased minimum wage.

She said people need to believe that, “when life happens, when you fall down, the state will be there to pick you back up”.

Picture: A homeless person seen sleeping on the cold and wet pavements of London. (Keith Mayhew/Zuma Press/PA).