Labour leader Ed Miliband has admitted the party did not do “enough” to reform the welfare system while it was in power.
Mr Miliband acknowledged there was “a minority” of people in many communities who were able to work but chose not to do so.
And he accepted that hard-working people were “hacked off” at seeing their neighbours live off benefits when they could be earning a living.
Labour has indicated it will support some of the welfare reforms proposed by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who wants to introduce a universal credit to replace the current complicated benefits system.
Mr Duncan Smith wants to break down a “culture of worklessness” which he believes has taken hold in some communities.
And Mr Miliband told the BBC: “There is a minority in many communities who can work and aren’t doing so and we need to act on that.
“It is a minority in my view but it hacks people off and I understand why it hacks people off because they say, ‘Look, I’m working all the hours God sends, I’m working 50 to 60 hours a week… and I’m struggling to make ends meet and I feel the person next door isn’t doing their bit.”
Asked about Labour’s record on an issue which Tony Blair made a priority when he first arrived in office, Mr Miliband said: “I don’t think we did enough on welfare reform. I agree.”
Mr Miliband acknowledged he was not part of the “squeezed middle” who he has said Labour will champion. But he insisted he could still “listen to and understand” voters’ aspirations and seek to make a difference to their lives.
“I come from a relatively privileged background. I am not going to pretend that I grew up in poverty,” said the Labour leader, whose father was the renowned Marxist academic Ralph Miliband.