The public perception of people who claim benefits has undergone a significant improvement as a direct result of the pandemic, according to a poll of 2,000 adults, including both benefit claimants and non-claimants.
The study suggests that the negative stigma associated with claiming benefits has diminished, with the term ‘benefits’ no longer carrying the same negative connotations as before. The financial struggles faced by a large number of individuals due to the Covid-19 pandemic, including business closures, redundancies, and furloughed workers, have contributed to this shift in public opinion.
Six out of 10 adults stated that the pandemic has highlighted that claiming benefits is nothing to be ashamed of. In contrast, over 12 months ago, prior to the pandemic, more than four in 10 individuals (44 percent) would have felt embarrassed or did feel embarrassed at the prospect of claiming benefits. However, the recent polling, commissioned by the Trussell Trust as part of its Hunger Free Future campaign, revealed that the number of people feeling embarrassed about claiming benefits has now decreased to 35 percent.
A spokesperson for the Trussell Trust commented, “We now have a unique opportunity to challenge the norm. The last 12 months have been hard for everyone, with many experiencing financial hardships. However, the universal impact of the pandemic has demonstrated how unexpected circumstances can affect any of us and has highlighted the need for change. When one person goes hungry, our whole society is weaker.”
The study also revealed that prior to the pandemic, 38 percent of adults viewed individuals claiming benefits in a negative light, and 35 percent admitted to having criticized someone for claiming benefits at some point. Additionally, 37 percent admitted to keeping or wanting to keep their own reliance on the welfare system a secret. However, these sentiments appear to have diminished, with 52 percent believing that the pandemic has increased general sympathy towards people who claim benefits.
Despite the challenges of the past year, 38 percent of respondents believe that the UK will become a more compassionate place in a year’s time. This shift in attitude may be attributed to 38 percent of adults who have faced financial difficulties themselves and have been compelled to reduce their own household expenses.
The Trussell Trust poll, conducted through OnePoll, also found that 71 percent of respondents agree that it is unacceptable for anyone to rely on charity for food in a wealthy country like the UK.
The Trussell Trust spokesperson emphasized, “We will continue to support food banks in providing emergency assistance as long as it is necessary, but we all need to do much more to build a hunger-free future. Together, we can end the need for food banks and create a stronger society where no one goes hungry. We can work towards a future where everyone can afford essentials, campaigning for a better and more equitable society where individuals do not have to turn to charity to meet their basic needs.”