Social ills 'our responsibility'

Homeless peopleBritons are increasingly looking to themselves for solutions to social problems rather than the Government, a survey has found.

Despite widespread concern about economic disparity, the public does not appear to believe that Government redistribution is the way forward, according to the National Centre for Social Research's latest British Social Attitudes report.

While 75% of those questioned agreed that the income gap between rich and poor was too large, only just over a third (35%) believed the Government should redistribute more to solve the problem.

The survey found there was continued concern about unemployment benefits being too high and that they discouraged the unemployed from finding jobs, with more than half (54%) agreeing with this sentiment, up from 35% in 1983 when the study was first carried out.

Although people see child poverty as an issue the Government must tackle, it found that 63% of the 3,297 people questioned believed parents who "don't want to work" were a reason why some children lived in poverty.

The study showed that despite an emphasis on individual responsibility, there was not much evidence of common interest, with almost half (45%) opposing new housing, particularly in areas where it was most needed.

Despite widespread acknowledgement of housing shortages, opposition was highest where the problem was most acute, with more than half (58%) against it in outer London and 50% opposing new development in the South East.

Since hitting a peak of 63% nine years ago, support for tax increases to spend more on public services such as health care and education has dropped to less than a third (31%) in the latest survey.

Penny Young, chief executive of the National Centre for Social Research, said: "In a time of economic austerity and social unrest, the big question coming out of this year's report is whether we really are in it together, or just in it for ourselves?

"An emerging sense of self-reliance may take the Government some way toward its vision of a more responsible society, but an emphasis on individualism, not Big Society collectivism, may present as much of a challenge as it does an opportunity."

© 2011 Press Association
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