A ban on public displays of poverty is coming into force in England – with ministers promising it will help curb the number of young people taking up becoming paupers.
Unemployed, homeless and other poor people will have to be kept out of sight in large shops and supermarkets, while small outlets are exempt until 2015. The government is also planning to extend the ban to include public displays of disability.
A government spokesperson explained the ban was designed to stop young people from becoming paupers:
Research has shown that exposure to poverty only encourages young people to become poor themselves. Studies have also shown that two-thirds of unemployed youngsters started being paupers before they were eighteen.
So, if we can, literally, arrive at a place where young people just don’t think about poverty and they don’t see unemployment and they don’t see homelessness, by reducing the visibility of poverty to young people. – then I hope we can motivate them from becoming paupers themselves.
The government is also considering a ban on public displays of disability to drive down the numbers of people becoming sick or disabled.
The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the BBC he hoped the ban would prevent people from taking up being disabled and also help those trying to give up getting sick:
Seeing people in wheelchairs or being sick will only encourage young people to become the same. It’s time we took the bull by the horns and tackled this problem head on so we can arrive at a place where we no longer see disability, poverty and sickness as a normal part of life. Mainly by pretending it doesn’t exist.
A plan to force retailers to put poor and disabled people into plain packaging is also expected to be put out to consultation later this year.
The display ban will apply to shops of more than 280 sq m (3,014 sq ft).
But a spokesman for the British Retail Consortium, who are against the ban, said it was wrong to believe legislating supermarkets and other shops from allowing poor and disabled people to be seen in public would have a major effect on young people:
We do not believe that hiding poor people under the counter or disabled people behind curtains or screens will discourage the young from taking up being poor or disabled. The truth is that children are more likely to become paupers when they’re in a household where parents are poor and also they tend to get their poverty from either parents, or older peers, not directly from supermarkets.
Public health minister Anne Milton cited evidence from other countries such as the US which suggested the measure could play an important role in discouraging young people in particular from becoming disabled:
We cannot ignore the fact that young people are being recruited into becoming disabled by colourful, eye-catching displays of disability.
There are too many examples of disabled people looking attractive in public and we need to put an immediate stop to this trend.
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