What Britain thinks about benefits

They may have based their opinions on inaccurate data, but British people want the system reformed
  • @FelicityMorse

Who should be entitled to claim state benefits has become one of the most hotly-debated topics in the UK.

Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms have been heavily discussed by political correspondents and charity campaigners, but Channel 4’s show Benefits Street has catapulted the argument out of newspaper columns and into pubs, around dinner tables and onto Facebook walls.

We know that the Conservatives are clamping down on benefits, what with David Cameron’s constant references to “hardworking families” and Iain Duncan Smith comparing himself to an abolitionist, freeing benefits claimants from the shackles of welfare dependency.

We also know that the left are outraged by the portrayal of benefits claimants in mainstream media and on television. Independent columnist Owen Jones wrote that Benefits Street “ demonises” welfare claimants, while thousands signed a petition demanding that Channel 4 take Benefits Street off air for ‘creating a skewed image of a section of society and stirring up hatred’. Freelance web consultant Stephen Reid even set up a “Parasite Street” about a street in Kensington and Chelsea.

 But what do British people think? Ahead of Channel 5 broadcasting The Big Benefits Row: Live a poll was conducted by You Gov on their behalf. The poll of 1814 adults showed that despite the volley of outraged tweets sent during Benefits Street, the majority of British people back reforming benefits and want tougher rules about who can claim support, particularly when it comes to welfare for immigrants.

Despite this, nearly half of us think that people on benefits are portrayed unfairly. Take a look through the gallery below for what Britain thinks about benefits.

However it's worth noting that this is British perception and does not necessarily accurately reflect the situation. For example, although £1.2bn  in benefits was overpaid due to fraud in the last year, this figure is smaller than the amount of money underpaid to those entitled to it (£1.3bn). More figures like this below.

The hidden "ghettos" of long-term unemployment: Iain Duncan Smith on benefits and Benefits Street