There is a common misconception that those who are on benefits are just lazy. New research however suggests otherwise
The stigma surrounding benefits is stronger than ever before, with Iain Duncan Smith’s attacks on the welfare state and the TV programme Benefits Street leaving a lasting impression that people simply don’t want to work and are happy to live off the state. But new research shows that more than half a million of those living in social housing (585,000) in the UK are working and still in poverty.
Increased living costs, part-time work and low pay are the major factors causing soaring numbers of people in work to go on housing benefits, as many are forced to turn to the welfare state to survive. Almost one in three (32.3 per cent) of social rented households in England with someone in work claimed housing benefit in 2012-13, up from fewer than one in five (18.9 per cent) in 2008-09.
Yet the public perception is far removed from the reality. A survey seen by The IoS has found that almost half of Britons believe that social housing tenants choose to claim benefits as a lifestyle choice and are simply lazy.
Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Circle Housing who conducted the survey said: “For too long negative stereotypes have been allowed to mask this complex debate about we tackle the costs faced by those on low pay. This research by the SMF debunks the myth that people choose a so called ‘Benefit Streets’ lifestyle instead of going out to work – the true picture is far more complicated. We want to work with politicians to tackle these issues by basing policy on fact and not on fiction.”
Median incomes have fallen by an unprecedented amount over the last two years, according to The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report. This has resulted in the poverty threshold falling, which can result in a situation where a family in poverty one year can be lifted out the next without their income rising at all.
Social housing tenants are the most likely to be in low paid jobs, with almost half on low pay compared to almost a fifth of the rest of the population. This means they need benefits in order to pull themselves out of in-work poverty.
New research by the Social Market Foundation shows that the number of social rented households with someone in work has increased by 168,000 since 1996, whilst the number of households without anyone in work has reduced by 210,000.
Chris Goulden, Head of Poverty Research at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “JRF research shows that more than half of people experiencing poverty now live in working households, so it is not surprising that the number of people in social rented households who work has also increased.
“The challenge is to make work pay. Without concerted action, millions of people are going to find it harder to meet even their basic needs.”