Research carried out for The Independent suggests that three-quarters of people who rely on working age benefits say they feel shame about claiming, either sometimes, most or all the time. Not only that but two-thirds of people in work agree that claimants should feel that way. Such a stigma means that a sizable number would or had put off making a claim. Further research by the University of Kent has shown that one in four eligible people had either delayed or failed to apply for benefits because of the perceived stigma. That leaves them without the funds they need to live.
Analysis of last year’s Department for Work and Pensions by Church Action on Poverty revealed that between them, working-age families and pensioners are failing to claim more than £10bn a year in benefits. Others suggest low-income households are missing out on £15bn in benefits and tax credits.
A 2013 Ipsos Mori survey found that the general public believed 24 per cent of benefit payments are fraudulently claimed. The official estimate is just 0.7 per cent. The most recent British Social Attitudes survey found that almost 80 per cent of people felt that “large numbers of people falsely claim benefits”. However, it’s not just the idea that people are routinely cheating the system; there’s also anger against claimants who are seen to be exploiting it. For example, just this month a mother of 12 who claims £40,000 a year in benefits has appeared on ITV’s This Morning saying she wants another child and boasting of her taxpayer-funded lifestyle. Yet this is also misleading. The charity Save The Children discovered that just 8 per cent of people on out-of-work benefits had more than two children. What’s more, the idea that people are choosing to opt out of work and use large families to fund a lavish lifestyle is also a myth. Families with three or more children are considerably more likely to be in poverty than two-child families.