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Charitable impulse going, says survey

21 September 2012

SHUTTERSTOCK

THE Government's welfare reforms, though criticised by church groups and charities, are "in tune with public opinion", the 29th British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey suggests.

The BSA report, released this week, is based on a survey of 3000 people, selected using a technique called random-probability sampling. The research was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research.

The survey suggests a hardening in public attitudes towards those receiving benefits, despite higher levels of unemployment caused by the recession. For example, 37 per cent of respondents in 2011 believed that people on the dole were "fiddling".

Fifteen per cent of respondents said in 2011 that unemployed people should receive higher benefits, compared with 22 per cent in 2002; 53 per cent thought that the disabled who could not work should receive higher benefits, down from 72 per cent in 2002; and 29 per cent believed that single parents should receive more benefits, compared with 40 per cent in 2002.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents believed that people would "stand on their own two feet" if benefits were less generous; in 1993, only 25 per cent of respondents believed this. The view that welfare benefits encourage dependence "clearly . . . chimes with the rationale claimed by the Coalition for its welfare reforms", the survey says.

The Government's Welfare Reform Act, which received Royal Assent in March, will replace six tax credits - including child tax credits, working tax credits, and Jobseeker's Allowance - with a Universal Credit. The changes have been criticised by several MPs and charities, including the Children's Society, which warned that as many as 100,000 of the poorest families in the country would lose up to £4000 a year of child-care when the Universal Credit was introduced next year ( News, 14 September).

The BSA survey argues, however, that its data "clearly show" that public attitudes to welfare "are generally moving in line with the current direction of government policy. . . There is less enthusiasm about public spending on all types of benefits, and an increasing belief that the welfare system encourages dependence."

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