Disillusionment with the welfare state rather than selfishness is pushing people into fiddling their benefits, according to University of Luton researchers.
Interviews with 35 self-confessed benefit fraudsters revealed that very few chose to live that way. Most did not even plan their fiddles efficiently and were worried about being caught. They seized opportunities which presented themselves in order to make ends meet.
There was resentment that benefits were insufficient to survive on. For many of them fraud was a "poorly calculated act of desperation," says the report. Research leader Hartley Dean, reader in social policy, said: "Benefit fraud is a problem but we need to be clear about what kind of problem it is. Most fraud does not involve the kind of highly organised scams which grab the headlines.
"Many people who believed they were guaranteed some security feel they have been betrayed by a system to which they or their families have contributed," says Dr Dean.
Both the Conservative and Labour parties are pushing hard for a clampdown on benefit fraud. There is also a growing emphasis by policy-makers on making entitlements more discretionary.
Dr Dean warns that such measures could increase benefit cheating because claimants will feel cheated of their right to appropriate entitlements.