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Daily Mail: Suffer the Little 'Underclass' Children

25/08/2014 15:18 BST | Updated 22/10/2014 10:59 BST

In a wide-ranging speech this week to the Royal College of GPs about his plans to place families at the heart of government policy making, David Cameron touched on all things domestic from adoption to shared parental leave.

But it was his announcement of an extension to the coalition's controversial 'troubled families' scheme that really got the Daily Mail in a froth.

Where others see poverty and deprivation, the Mail sees the 'staggering scale of Britain's underclass', illustrated by an image of a fictional family from Channel 4 series Shameless.

Nobody is denying that there are some deep social problems in the UK today but we don't see articles about hedge fund managers illustrated by a press shot from Downtown Abbey or Brideshead Revisited.

The Daily Mail deals in stereotypes, we know that, but labelling people as 'shameless families' and the 'underclass' creates a barrier to people bettering their lot and has a detrimental effect on children.

Maris Stratulis, England Manager at The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is concerned that media distortion belies a lack of aspiration for the prospects of children and communities in this country.

"Social workers are working with vulnerable children and families every day to make a difference, because as a profession we believe change can happen and the quality of children's lives can be improved," she says.

"To label any child or family as the 'underclass' feeds into imagery of inferiority, hopelessness and powerlessness. We believe that every child has the fundamental right to be 'believed in', to be loved and to be supported to have goals and to reach their full potential."

The 'underclass' that the Mail so despises are the poor. It's miserable to be poor. Anyone who's ever experienced poverty and escaped doesn't ever want to go back there. Why heap stigma on to people? Because it's a handy get out for proper examination of our country and whether we are really providing the opportunities people need to make something of themselves.

This week also saw Ron Hogg, Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner telling Radio 4's Today programme that he is taking action to tackle a rise in the theft of food by trying to help people address the underlying motive for the crime.

Mr Hogg said people were committing these offences "simply to live." The Faculty of Public Health also warned this week that food poverty is causing a rise in malnutrition and rickets.

Rickets! In a 'first world' country in the 21st Century, isn't this something to be ashamed of rather than the very existence of our poorest families?

Even the right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange this week released a report calling for cross-party action on the parlous state of the nation's social housing estates.

The report, titled The Estate We're In: Lessons from the Front Line http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/publications/item/the-estate-we-re-in-lessons-from-the-front-line?category_id=24describes the current situation as "nothing short of a national embarrassment" and argues that it would be "morally inexcusable" for policymakers not to pledge to turn around the most deprived council estates within ten years.

This is the reality; it's tough out there.

The current economic climate where jobs are not easy to come by means that most working people from all types of professions are only a single pay cheque away from penury.

Whole communities are being written off by media outlets like the Daily Mail. When they attack our most vulnerable people, they are really attacking all of us.