Welfare fraud – a culture of hysteria?


Sir, – The contempt directed against Leo Varadkar’s “welfare cheats” campaign is entirely justified.

A recent study by Ipsos MORI for the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London found that the average member of the British public thinks £24 out of every £100 of social security payments is fraudulently claimed. The official estimate is 70p per £100. This equates to an overestimation of fraudulent claims by a reality-defying factor of 34.

The reasons for this warped public perception are not obscure, and the former social welfare inspector quoted in your newspaper is right to deride Mr Varadkar’s campaign as “Tory class warfare” (“Varadkar’s welfare cheats advertisements a ‘hate campaign’”, News, May 15th).

The Tories and their cheerleaders in the right-wing British tabloid press have weaponised the myth of rampant welfare fraud both to distract attention from and to justify brutal cuts to benefits (as the British insist on calling them) and services for the most vulnerable as well as a deliberate policy of ramped up welfare sanctions.

According to the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food-bank operator, welfare sanctions and delays are the primary reason people are referred to foodbanks for emergency supplies.

In the UK financial year 2016-17, the Trussell Trust distributed a record 1,182,954 three-day emergency food parcels.

In sum, a rapid increase in mass food poverty in an extremely wealthy developed-world country is being normalised thanks in no small part to a culture of hysteria surrounding welfare claimants.

It is understandable that Mr Varadkar would seek to divert the public gaze away from the deplorable record of the two governments in which he has served, which like the Tories here have “balanced the books” of austerity on the backs of those least able to bear the burden.

The British example, however, provides a cautionary tale – alarmist posturing can have alarming real-life consequences. – Yours, etc,