Bedroom Tax: “I served my country in the army for 10 years – including in Afghanistan. I find it more stressful being back here and dealing with being homeless than when I was in a war zone”

GROWING numbers of the public are worried the benefits system no longer provides a safety net for those most in need.

As in-work poverty becomes increasingly prevalent, new research released to coincide with Challenge Poverty Week shows growing numbers of the general public are worried the UK benefits system is not fit for purpose.

Ruthless cuts to welfare under the coalition government mean only 22% now believe social security would provide them with adequate support if they lost their job, according to the report by the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland.

The group says the current debate about social security is failing ordinary Scottish families and believes government policy is increasingly at odds with the majority of the public.

CPAG Scotland revealed the findings as it launched its People Like Us campaign which is calling for the rejection of stereotypes of benefit claimants and for a new debate around welfare.

The poll also found only 32% believed the benefits system would support them adequately were they to have a child and only 30% if they were to become ill or disabled.

The research reflects a shifting attitude to the way people view those on benefits and shows that previously hard-line attitudes are mellowing.

It reflects this year’s British Social Attitudes Survey where 51% said benefits were too high, down sharply from 62% in 2011.

John Dickie, head of CPAG in Scotland, said government policy on benefits cuts was not being backed by the majority view and were only stereotyping claimants as undeserving.

He added: “There is an immediate need for policies that promote jobs, tackle low pay, promote affordable housing and childcare and help families with the added costs of children.

Sheila Gilmore, Edinburgh East MP

“Instead of focusing on scaremongering and negative stereotyping the UK government needs to take action to ensure that there is a safety net in place for families when they lose their jobs, become disabled or have a child.”

It comes as more than 70 charities, including Oxfam, The Children’s Society, MacMillan Cancer Support, RNIB and Carers UK, joined forces to call for more for support people claiming benefits.

The Who Benefits? campaign is also being supported by a range of politicians including Sheila Gilmore, Edinburgh East MP.

It will give a voice to people who claim benefits after a survey of almost 2,000 adults in Britain found that 81% supported the idea of a benefits system that acted as a safety net for people when they needed it.

The survey also found that more than a quarter of people who had claimed benefits had hidden it because of what people might think.

John Downie, director of public affairs for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said people feared the security offered by the welfare system was being eroded.

“Despite the mistruths and scaremongering being peddled by the UK government, there’s no escaping the fact that many people who rely on benefits do so to compensate for low pay or to help them cope with the unexpected challenges life can throw at us.

“People want to have a benefits system that provides a safety net for everyone when they need it most and these results show that people won’t sit back and let the government destroy our benefits system.”

Third Force News Scotland

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