A survey suggests Britons are living in fear of deepening poverty as a result of the government’s attack on the benefits system.
The poll – conducted for Unite – found more than three in five people (62%) believe proposed widespread cuts to benefits will plunge people into poverty.
72% of older people (40-64 year-olds) feel most strongly that this will be the case.
On average, 40% of those interviewed said they believed they would be worse off after the latest changes.
The poll found more than half (56%) of people over 40 years old are increasingly anxious about the changes to come.
Food, luxuries (including take away meals, toiletries and cinema trips), clothes and heating are the items most likely to be cut back.
50% of those aged over 65 expected to have to back on food.
However, analysts also said that because nearly half of all those they spoke to were not aware of the proposed changes, the true extent of hardship could be much worse.
The poll findings was released as the Welfare Uprating Bill receives its second reading in the House of Lords.
From April 2013 a limit will be put on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called a benefit cap.
At first this will only affect people in 4 council areas:
All other areas will introduce the cap by the end of September 2013.
The bill implements an announcement by the ConDem chancellor in the 2012 Autumn Statement that increases in certain working-age welfare benefits and tax credits would be limited to one per cent, rather than increasing them in line with inflation (currently around 3% even according to fixed state statistics). In reality this means that benefits are being cut.
The bill includes the widely-criticised “bedroom tax” and removing council tax rebates.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“This bill has been sold to the electorate on the back of mistruths and nasty stereotypes.
“The reality is that with people’s incomes continuing to fall in real terms, this Bill will cut the value of vital tax credits and benefits for millions of hard-pressed families.”
Pat Harrington of Solidarity Trade Union commented:
“This ConDem government is adept at playing divide and rule. They and their media lackies want to stigmatise those on benefits but these cuts will effect people in real need who will suffer as a result.”
Unite polled 1,000 people – in and out of work – in five areas of England: Burnley, Birmingham, Peterborough, Slough and the London borough of Southwark.
They included nurses, carers, teachers, construction workers, finance and retail workers, as well as those out of work, students and retirees.
Interviewers found growing anxiety over the further hardship to come and a deep sense that the changes are unfair.
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