Nearly half (49%) of the British public believe cuts in services and public spending may make those who receive disability benefits open to abuse or attack, a new poll has revealed.

The poll, carried out by Ipsos MORI for Mencap, also found that 61% of the people believe that cuts may make people angry at those who receive disability benefits. The findings suggest people receiving disability benefits face an increasingly hostile environment from members of the public – in addition to contending with the cuts in services.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, said: “These findings suggest that respondents believe that people with genuine disabilities may be at risk of hostility from some members of the public. The government has a duty under the Equality Act to protect people with a disability from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. “Generally, there has been a disproportionate focus on the very few people who have defrauded the system rather than those who need state support like disability living allowance in order to participate in society.

The Department of Work and Pensions’ own figures show a fraud rate of 0.5% for disability living allowance. “There is a need for reform in the benefit system, but the case for reform should not be made at the expense of those who legitimately need state support. While undoubtedly there have been a few high-profile examples of fraud, this does not change the fact that people with disabilities do legitimately require support.”