UK attitudes to welfare soften, says survey

Tue, 10/09/2013 - 11:25 -- nick

The public's attitude to benefits is softening, according to a new survey.

The British Social Attitudes Survey reports its findings every year on a range of topics including welfare.

And despite continued negative coverage by many newspapers, and the government's ongoing campaign against claimants, when the statement "benefits for unemployed people are too high and discourage work" was put to them, only 51% agreed.

This shows a big drop since last year's survey when 62% concurred.

At the same time there has been a 6% rise in the number supporting more spending on benefits, up to 34%, perhaps showing that the government's below-inflation increases and benefit cap are not as popular as first thought.

Six out of ten still believe that it is the government's responsibility to provide a reasonable standard of living for unemployed people, but more than eight out of ten agreed with this twenty years ago.

There was a smaller drop in the number believing that residents in their area could get a job if they wanted to, down 2% to 54%.

This may represent the beginnings of a fight back against the forces ranged against the welfare state, but there is worse news elsewhere in the report.

Four out of five people believe large numbers of people falsely claim benefit, likely a result of the government's prompting: last year, Department for Work and Pensions press releases mentioned fraud 85 times despite this only making up 0.7% of the welfare bill.

The attitude of the British public has not always been so tough; following the last recession in 1993, only 24% of people thought benefits were too high, less than half the current level.

Some benefits continue to attract support, with pensions continuing to be popular followed by disability benefits, suggesting that the government should rethink some of its policy in this area.

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