British support for social benefits at highest level in 20 years – study | Advantages

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Public support for more generous social benefits is at its highest in more than two decades, amid new evidence that societal views on social security and immigration are becoming significantly more liberal, according to the latest annual attitude barometer British social welfare organizations.

The findings, which come as pressure mounts on the government to retain the Covid-19 universal credit of £ 20 per week, indicate that the seemingly entrenched popular views on benefits – that they are addicting to the welfare and encourage ”- are melting.

More members of the public now agree with the claim: ‘benefits are too low and cause hardship’ than those who think benefit levels are too high and discourage work, according to the UK survey of workers. social attitudes, reversing a hardening of views on social security dating back to the late 1990s.

“The dramatic softening of attitudes towards welfare in recent years strongly suggests that the public can be sympathetic to more generous welfare benefits for people who lose their jobs due to the pandemic – especially s “There is a substantial increase in the level of unemployment,” said Gillian Avant, director of surveys at the National Center for Social Research, which conducted the study.

The research, which involved face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 3,224 UK adults between July and October last year, suggests there was an appetite for a more generous benefit system even before the pandemic . Since March, the number of people receiving universal credit, the main social benefit, has doubled to 6 million, and more is expected as leave support ends and unemployment rises.

The survey also reveals a softening of views on immigration, despite the centrality of the issue during the Brexit vote four years ago, and the government’s increasingly hostile rhetoric about cracking down on numbers. of migrants and tighter control of the UK’s borders.

The proportion of Britons saying that immigration “enriches cultural life” rose from 26% in 2011 to 46% in 2019, according to the survey. Over the same period, the proportion of people who think immigration is “bad for the economy” has increased from 43% to 15%.

The survey revealed widespread concerns about inequalities. Almost three-quarters of Scots and 65% of English agreed that the distribution of income was ‘unfair’. Although a majority in every country felt it was the role of the state to solve this problem, only 6% in England and 3% in Scotland were happy with the government’s attempts to close the income gap.

The authors of the Social Attitudes report suggest that public attitudes towards welfare quickly hardened from the late 1990s under New Labor as employment levels rose and the government sought. reduce spending on long-term unemployment benefits, a policy pursued by the coalition and the Conservatives after 2010.

The narrative of the shirkers and skivers reached its peak in the early years of austerity. Former Prime Minister David Cameron referred in speeches to “benefits grabs”, while former Chancellor George Osborne pitted the hard-working shift worker against his lazy neighbors who “slept a lifetime of benefits “. It now seems to be fading quickly.

The survey shows that since 2015 – the year Osborne cut social security by £ 16 billion and announced a four-year benefit freeze – attitudes towards beneficiaries have softened. Five years ago, about 28% of the public agreed with the claim that benefit recipients “really don’t deserve any help”; this view is now at an all-time high of 15%, while the proportion of disagreements has increased over the same period from 33% to 47%.

“It appears the pandemic came at a time when there was already more empathy with the circumstances of the low paid and unemployed working age – and so voters can look to the government to make arrangements. adequate for those whose livelihoods are threatened by the pandemic, ”he said.

Jonathan Reynolds, the fictitious Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said: “These answers prove that the social security system is not working for the British. Even before this crisis, a decade of Conservative government left us with a safety net with too many holes and the evidence is clear. Work would replace it with a system that provides a decent standard of living for all. “

Alison Garnham, Executive Director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “For years successive governments have undermined the idea that our social security system is for everyone, instead promoting a narrative of skivers and wrestlers. That narrative will be shattered now that Covid-19 has left so many people facing unemployment and financial hardship. “

The Department of Work and Pensions was approached for a response, but said it did not want to comment.


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