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Benefit claimants feel embarrassed

11 October 2013

By a staff reporter


ONE in four benefit claimants is embarrassed about what other people will think about him or her, a new survey suggests.

Twenty-seven per cent of benefit claimants say that they have hidden the fact, because they worry about what other people will think of them. This figure rises to 47 per cent among those aged 16 to 24.

The survey was carried out by YouGov on behalf of the campaign Who Benefits?, which is co-ordinated by more than 70 charities. It seeks to give a voice to benefit claimants.

Eighty-one per cent of those polled believe that "benefits are an important safety net to support people when they need help," and 64 per cent agree that "we all benefit as a society when support from benefits is available for those that need it." But of people who have never claimed, 51 per cent say that they would be embarrassed to do so.

In a joint letter to The Times this week, the charities called on politicians to stop maligning benefit claimants. They said: "Politicians of all parties need to do more to understand the real experiences of people supported by benefits, who are too often ignored, misrepresented, or even blamed for their situation. The extreme examples we typically hear about do not reflect the realities of life for the vast majority of those really in need."

The Who Benefits? campaign asks people to share their stories about claiming benefits online and on social media, using the hashtag #WeAllBenefit.

Laura Grace, a mother of four, says that she is dependent on the £140 a week she gets in children's tax credits. "It helps me to put food on the table for my family, buy clothes and school uniforms for my children, and prevent the gas and electricity from being cut off. Without this support I don't know how we would survive."

"At a time when families up and down the country are feeling the squeeze, it is important - now more than ever - that society supports those in need," the CEO of the Children's Society, Matthew Reed, said. "The overwhelming majority of people who get benefits really need them."

The CEO of MIND, Paul Farmer, said: "These new statistics suggest those who claim benefits experience double the stigma."

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