Majority of Brits want government to tackle root causes of housing benefit bill

The majority of the British public believe the government should be tackling the root causes of the country’s high housing benefit bill.

A survey by the Fabian Society asked people if they agreed with the statement: "The size of the housing benefit bill has risen because there are more people claiming due to unemployment, low wages and rents rising quickly. Instead of planning further cuts, the government should be focusing on solving these underlying problems. The government should do this even if it took a long time and meant tax rises or spending cuts elsewhere."

Some 66% of respondents said they agreed with the statement, while 12% disagreed.

However, the research, conducted in partnership with homelessness charity Crisis, also found that 67% of those polled agreed that too much is spent on subsidising housing costs for immigrants and those with too many children, and 58% agreed that housing benefit encourages dependence on the state.

But, according to the Fabian Society, participants also recognised the importance of supporting those deemed vulnerable and in genuine need.

Natan Doron, senior researcher at the Fabian Society, said: "While housing benefit remains a largely unpopular area of welfare spending, driven in part by media stories that focus on exceptional cases, there is public appetite for tackling the poverty that underlies the problem and for tackling some of the root causes of the spend on housing benefit.

"Our research has shown that a majority of people believe poverty to be a structural problem, rather than one caused by an individual's failings and that a majority of people agree that government should seek to tackle the root causes of housing benefit spend, even if that means slowing the pace of deficit reduction or increasing taxes.

"The increasing spending on housing benefit is a symptom of a broken system. Rather than being driven into an arms race of negative rhetoric, politicians should seek to actively engage the public's concerns and make the case for a transformative programme that will help to solve Britain's housing crisis"

Leslie Morphy, Crisis chief executive, said: “Housing benefit is vital for literally keeping a roof over the head of some five million households across the UK, many of whom work long hours in poorly paid jobs, are disabled or sick.

"They have borne the brunt of a series of cuts with more to come, leaving many facing hardship, debt and at worst homelessness. Yet too much of the public and political debate has sought to blame those who need help for their predicament.

"This new research is encouraging because it highlights how the British public retain a clear sense of the importance of helping those less fortunate who need our care and support. They also recognise that there are real issues of falling incomes and rising rents which need addressing."