PUBLIC opinion of people who claim benefits has improved – as a direct result of the pandemic.
The poll of 2,000 adults – including people who claim benefits and those who don’t – suggests “benefits” no longer carries the negative connotations it once did.
Six in 10 adults said the pandemic has shown that claiming benefits is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Although more than four in 10 (44%) said just over 12 months ago prior to the pandemic, they would have felt – or did feel – embarrassed at the thought of claiming benefits.
But a year on, the polling commissioned by the Trussell Trust as part of its Hunger Free Future campaign, found the number of people who feel this way now has dropped to 35%.
How do I apply for Universal Credit?
HERE’S all you need to know about applying for Universal Credit.
You’ll need to apply to the new welfare system via the gov.uk website, starting by setting up an online account.
To make an account, you’ll need an email address and a phone number.
After that, you’ll need to answer a set of questions about your current circumstances, known as your “to do list”.
These include things like when you last received payment for a job, what your household income is and how many people depend on you financially.
If you’ve lost your job, Citizens Advice recommends that you don’t apply until you’ve received your final wages or any final holiday pay.
This is because any money you receive after you’ve applied for Universal Credit will count as income and mean that you’re entitled to less in your first payment.
You will then need to confirm your identity online.
In certain circumstances, you’ll be able to apply over the phone, such as those who don’t have regular access to the internet, are visually impaired, or have a physical condition that stops you from using a computer or smartphone.
To do this, you will need to contact the Universal Credit helpline to ask if you can apply by phone or arrange a home visit.
In this case, someone can call them on your behalf if you can’t do it yourself.
A spokesperson for the Trussell Trust said: “We now have a unique opportunity to challenge the norm.
“The last 12 months have been hard for everyone – with many finding themselves weaker financially.
“But perhaps the universal impact of the pandemic has shown how the unexpected can hit any of us, and the need for change.
“When one person goes hungry, our whole society is weaker.”
The study also found 38% of adults viewed people claiming benefits in a negative light prior to the pandemic.
While 35% admitted they had at some point criticised someone for claiming benefits.
And 37% revealed they would have kept or did keep the fact they needed the welfare system a secret.
However, these sentiments might have lessened – 52% believe the pandemic has made people in the UK generally more sympathetic to people who claim benefits.
And while the past 12 months have been challenging, 38% think the nation will be a more compassionate place a year from now.
This could be due to 38% of adults being hit financially and left with no choice but to cut back on their own household expenditure themselves.
The Trussell Trust poll, carried out through OnePoll, also found 71% agreed it’s not right anyone should need to use a charity for food in a country as rich as the UK.
A spokesperson for the Trussell Trust added: “We will continue to support food banks to provide emergency help for as long as it is needed, 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 create a future where everyone can afford basics as we campaign for a better, more just society, where no-one needs to turn to charity to get by.”
Struggling to understand Universal Credit? We’ve explained what an advance payment is, how you apply for it and when you pay it back.
Plus here’s how you log in to Universal Credit and what the benefits are.