Britons back squeeze on welfare benefits, suggests poll

Terraced houses in Newport, south Wales The government plans a cap on housing benefit

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British people are overwhelmingly in favour of having a welfare state, but most want it tightened up, a poll for BBC News suggests.

More than 90% agreed there was a need for a benefits system that provides a safety net for everyone who needs it.

But more than three-quarters of people wanted stricter tests for incapacity benefit, and cuts to benefits for jobless people refusing work.

Most wanted those claiming housing benefit in expensive areas to be moved.

The 92% in favour of the welfare state is an unusually high figure according to Ben Page of polling organisation Ipsos Mori which carried out the survey.

"It shows that the British public's belief in the welfare state is absolutely rock solid."

Poll findings

  • 92% want a benefits system providing a safety net for all (4% disagree).
  • 63% doubt the UK benefits system works effectively (23% disagree).
  • 72% want politicians to do more to cut the benefits bill (15% disagree).
  • 84% want to see stricter testing for incapacity benefits (10% disagree)
  • 78% want job seekers to lose benefits if they refuse work they can do (16% disagree).
  • 57% want those on housing benefit in expensive areas to be moved (29% disagree).

Telephone poll of 1,003 British adults aged 18+ (16-18 September 2011, Ipsos Mori)

"There are very few things that people would agree with more in this country."

Last year the government announced plans to cut £7bn in welfare spending, including changes to incapacity, housing benefit and tax credits.

These are being implemented in the Welfare Reform Bill currently going through Parliament, including some of the most radical reforms since the 1940s and the creation of the welfare state.

Among planned changes are an overall cap on a family's benefits of £26,000, limits to housing benefit, new tests for those claiming incapacity benefit and tighter rules for job seekers offered work.

The poll was carried out for the BBC Two programme, The Future State of Welfare with John Humphrys, which can be seen at 21:00 BST on Thursday 27 October or online afterwards (UK only) at the above link.

Hear John Humphrys' report on the Today programme.

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