Professor Alex de Ruyter, labour market expert at Birmingham City University, has suggested our attitudes towards state benefits will be changing following reports that up to one million people have applied for Universal Credit as a result of the financial impact of Coronavirus.

Professor de Ruyter said, “The last 10 years have been characterised by those in receipt of state benefits being viewed as lazy or undeserving. Now that people are ‘signing on’ in substantial numbers – many of whom will not have previously interacted with the benefits system and probably consider themselves as ‘middle class professionals’, collective attitudes towards state benefits – whether around unemployment, low-income, housing or health – may start to change, societally, politically and through media.”

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s income guarantees to employees and the self-employed are estimated to cost tens of billions, so given that up to a million new applications for Universal Credit have been made in the last two weeks, the UK Government is looking at a possible budget deficit increase by at least £175 billion over the next financial year.”

“Politically speaking, it is almost impossible for Johnson’s cabinet to avoid paying out in an effort to protect the UK economy. In effect this will have to mean further political acknowledgement of the important role that state benefits like Universal Credit play. We should expect to see more ‘acceptance’ across the political spectrum and a decrease in the stigma surrounding the payment and receipt of Government financial support in this way.”