More than one in three adults admit inequality in Britain is worse than they thought before the Covid-19 crisis, new polling shows.
And more than half said the Government should start tackling inequality by making the benefits system less punitive.
Responding to the poll, Labour’s former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary called for an urgent inquiry into the role of the welfare state in Britain.
Debbie Abrahams, who now co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Compassionate Politics said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the endemic levels of inequality in Britain and this survey shows that the public agree that much more urgent action is needed to tackle it.
“We cannot continue with business as usual – with a system that left black and ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and those living in deprived communities ruinously exposed to the dangers of Covid.”
The Opinium survey, in partnership with the think tank Compassion in Politics, shows that 39% of people have revised their estimation of the levels of inequality in Britain as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Some 1 in 5 (18%) actually believe inequality to be “much worse” than they had imagined.
And more than half (57%) agree that the welfare system should become less punitive than it currently is – including 43% of Conservative voters.
More than 1 in 3 (37%) also think that it is “unfair” or “very unfair” for people who have been made unemployed by Covid to now face benefit sanctions.
Jennifer Nadel, co-chair of the Compassion in Politics think tank said: “Government should take note. Very few get the opportunity to redesign the economy but Covid has afforded that chance to this administration.
“Their priorities must now be the public’s health and wellbeing and making good their commitment to “level up” the national economy.”
Ms Abrahams added: “With this context, I believe the time is right for an urgent inquiry into the role of the welfare state, and especially the adequacy of social security, in reducing the widening inequality in Britain.
“We must remember how the welfare state was established after the Second World War.
“In exposing the extent of our inequalities, the Coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity to reset how our society operates, where our welfare state enables everyone to live healthy lives.”