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NatCen research suggests Government risks alienating electorate on child benefit changes

04 January 2013 | Tags: families, British Social Attitudes, children and young people, benefits

Child Benefit changes, due to be introduced on Monday (7 January), run the risk of alienating large segments of the electorate as the benefit has become increasingly popular year on year, according to data from NatCen Social Research’s British Social Attitudes survey.

The percentage of the population rating the benefit as one of their two top priorities for extra government spending on welfare has more than doubled since the 1980s from 20 per cent in 1983 to 42 per cent in 2010, according to NatCen’s data. The data shows a steady increase in the popularity of child benefit over the past few decades and no sign of this slowing down.

In addition, higher earners are the most likely to list child benefit as a top priority, compared with other benefits such as those for disabled people or single parents.

Penny Young, NatCen Chief Executive, said “British Social Attitudes research suggests that in the past few decades child benefit has become an increasing priority for the British electorate. In 1983, social benefits for the unemployed, disabled people and single parents were all rated as higher priorities than child benefit, but by 2010, child benefit had surpassed all of these, coming second only to pensions for older people.

“The impact of these changes may be greater than the Government expects. Not only do they go against the tide of public opinion, they add complexity and potential confusion to the welfare system.”

For more information contact:

Leigh Marshall: 0207 549 8506/0786 688 4620 or

Notes to editors

NatCen Social Research, Britain’s largest independent social research organisation, aims to promote a better-informed society through high quality social research (

The British Social Attitudes survey has been conducted annually since 1983. Since then over 85,000 people have taken part in the survey.

British Social Attitudes statistics on attitudes to child benefit and welfare:

  • In 2010, 42 per cent of respondents listed child benefit as one of their top two priorities for extra spending on welfare, compared to 20 per cent in 1983 and 31 per cent in 1993.

  • Respondents naming welfare as one of their top two priorities for Government spending overall fell from 12 per cent in 1983 to four per cent in 2011.