Nearly 60 per cent of working people believe changes to the welfare system will plunge people in to poverty and make life harder for their own families, with just 17 per cent believing the changes would make the system fairer.
The findings involving over 6,000 of respondents from an independent survey for Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, comes ahead of today’s (Tuesday 8 January) parliamentary vote to cut benefits in real terms.
Polled over the new year, nearly half of working people (47 per cent) reveal that they are in the dark over how the government's cuts will hit them.
The findings also point to growing fuel poverty and increasing reliance on food banks, with nearly one in four (24 per cent) of those losing out because of the cuts saying they would cut back on heating and 23 per cent on food.
With prices set to continue rising in 2013 and wages stagnating, many people are already struggling to make ends meet. An earlier survey in the series found that on average working people are being forced to borrow £327 to get through the month. These pressures on family incomes show why so many people are deeply concerned about the impact of government cuts on their already stretched budgets.
Ahead of today’s crucial vote on further cuts to welfare, Unite accused the government of cynically attempting to divide working and non-working people by demonising the unemployed, as it seeks to distract from its economic failure and £40,000 tax giveaway to millionaires this April.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “These latest cuts to welfare show the disdain with which this government views ordinary people and underlines just how out of touch it is with working families struggling to make ends meet.
“Cuts to vital support, like housing benefit and tax credits, will have a devastating impact on many in society, sucking money out of the economy and plunging people in to poverty. This is not just self-defeating, it will set this nation back a generation.
"Cameron and Osborne's failing economic strategy lies in tatters, yet their response is to turn people against one another - people without disabilities against those with, those in work against those without and the young against old.
“But these poll findings show that working people reject this divide-and-rule strategy and also fear the impact of further welfare cuts.
“Many Unite members, including NHS workers, care workers, bank workers and cleaners rely on welfare support such as housing benefit and child tax credits. This does not give them a lavish lifestyle, but merely allows people to put food on the table and keep a roof over their families' heads.
“It adds insult to injury that at a time when ordinary people are facing cuts to vital support, the government is handing out massive tax breaks for millionaires.
"Unlike this government, Unite is firmly on the side of people - in and out of work - as they fight to resist state-imposed impoverishment. Rather than attacking the poorest, the government should concentrate on getting growth back in to the economy and tackling our jobs crisis.”
The independent survey, conducted for Unite by social research company Mass1, has tracked around 350,000 people, mainly members of Unite, since January 2011. It is understood to be the biggest survey to capture the experiences of working people during the economic crisis in the UK.
A power point presentation of the survey is available from: James.firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information contact James Bevan, Unite campaigns officer, on 07711 347 645
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.