Welfare reforms: Norfolk people have their say

The prime minister said in his speech on benefits yesterday that 'The benefit system has created a benefit culture. It doesn't just allow people to act irresponsibly, but often actively encourages them to do so'.

But speaking to people in Norwich yesterday, it is clear the situation is not so clear cut.

Jade Wilson, a 23-year-old single mother and former barmaid from Wade Close, Aylsham, said: 'You can't force someone to work in a job where they feel uncomfortable, to cut people's benefits is just silly. I think the crime rate would go up a lot more.'

The prime minister also argued that a 'collective culture of responsibility' had been lost, leading people to feel content to remain unemployed and dependent on the state.

Speaking to former bank customer services advisor Maggie Cabbon from Bowthorpe Road, Norwich, you get a distinctly different impression.

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Now unemployed, she attends training sessions at the job centre at Pottergate: 'I've been to a session this morning with about 7 or 8 other people and they were all desperate to get work.

'There was one guy who was an engineer of some description, obviously very well qualified, and he was just off to apply for a job as a glass washer,' she said.

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Daniel Macdonald, 26, from Hall Road, Norwich, has just come back from Norway where he worked in the fish farm industry, and he can see the government's point: 'I do completely agree, because there are jobs available to people if they're willing to take them. I've heard it said that it actually pays not to work.

'But at the same time it's about whether or not you can afford to travel the distances required to get to the work, and bearing in mind the cost of fuel, it's not so straight forward just to say 'yeah I could take a job and take the minimum wage and earn the minimum amount of money just to survive',' he said.

Keith Emes-Ellis, 21 from Boundary Road, Norwich, is an interesting case, having just had his working hours slashed from full-time to seven hours by his employer, Tesco.

Mr Emes-Ellis, pictured said: 'I've heard that being on benefits is better than having a job, but at the end of the day it's more satisfying to have a job and earn your own money.

'Everyone I know who doesn't have a job is looking for a job.'

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