Challenging images? Dominant, residual and emergent meanings in on-line media representations of child poverty

Helen Lomax, Janet Fink

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


When Britain’s Coalition government took office in May 2010, it pledged to continue the previous Labour government’s commitment to end child poverty and to implement the Child Poverty Act 2010. However, and despite this commitment, concerns about child poverty have continued to escalate, becoming an increasingly visible feature in the British news media and its online and print reporting of the effects of the Coalition government’s welfare reforms. Reports from campaigning groups and policy think tanks have similarly highlighted the growing incidence of child poverty with, for example, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (Brewer, Browne & Joyce 2011) forecasting that far from it being eradicated by 2020, on the coalition’s present policies, it will have returned to close to its peak in the 1990s, wiping out the progress that has been made. At the same time evidence from public attitude surveys and social media indicates a general hardening of attitudes towards poorer people who are increasingly constructed in policy and wider discourses as feckless and undeserving. The recent British Attitudes Survey (Park et al. 2012:ix) found only 28% of those surveyed supported the view that the government should spend more on welfare benefits compared to 58% in 1991, prompting the Survey's co-director Elizabeth Clery to suggest that there has been “a transformation in Britain’s attitudes towards the creation of a more equal society, an aspiration that in part might be delivered through welfare benefits.” A BBC Radio 4 Welfare Poll, conducted by ComRes (2012), found similarly that 64% of Britons believe the benefits system either does not work well or is failing, and 40% think that at least half of all benefit recipients are ‘scroungers’. While data from Ipsos MORI’s study, 21st Century Welfare (Hall 2012), suggest that 84% of its respondents either agree or tend to agree with stricter work-capability tests for disabled people, and 78% are in accord with the idea that benefits should be docked if people turn down work that pays the same or more than they get in benefits. The same research points to 62% of respondents agreeing with the idea of benefits being capped if people choose to have more children, and 57% with the essential logic of capping housing benefit.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal for the Study of British Cultures
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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