Nearly three-quarters of people who rely on working-age benefits say they feel embarrassed about claiming them, according to research carried out on behalf of The Independent.
Exclusive polling conducted by OnePulse found the vast majority of claimants felt shame "either sometimes, most or all the time". In addition, two-thirds of those surveyed who are in work felt that feeling that way was appropriate.
The findings echo a recent study by the University of Kent, in which half of those interviewed said they were conscious of some sort of benefits stigma. Almost 50 per cent said they felt associated with statements such as "benefits are not for people like me".
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Researchers found up to one in four eligible people had delayed or failed to apply for benefits as a result of these feelings.
Analysis by Church Action on Poverty has revealed that working-age families and pensioners are failing to claim more than £10bn a year in benefits. Some suggest the figure could be as much as £15bn.
In a culture in which the idea of the "benefit-scrounger" is readily encouraged by the press, says The Independent, "extensive reporting of fraud risks raising public perception that many claimants are cheating the system" when this is only true in a tiny minority of cases.
A 2013 Ipsos Mori poll found the public believed 24 per cent of all benefit payments are fraudulently claimed, while the official estimate is just 0.7 per cent.
The most recent British Social Attitudes survey found almost 80 per cent of people felt "large numbers of people falsely claim benefits".
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