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With Churchill believed he was able to


With the single stroke of a pen, Government has the ability to change the lives of millions. Creating policy that enables individuals to lead their best lives is essential. According to Beveridge, five giants exist that may have prevented this. Want, disease, squalor, ignorance and idleness were barriers to this. In 1945, Labour had a victory due to the belief that they would be likely to pursue reform. Their ideas were based on the five giants mentioned before, identified by Beveridge. The period before WWII had seen many debates about quality of services, such as the lack of co-operation in hospital services. Further concern included the lack of a health insurance scheme, for medical treatment. Others included criticisms of the Poor Law, a means tested payment for those who were poverty stricken (Spicker, P, 2017)1. With the victory of Labour, the people received a sense of relief, as they believed they would be offered better opportunities for education, healthcare and homes etc. Multiple factors were at play, with rising costs and complexity of technology being accessible to a selective group. This essay will explore the factors that led up to the development of the welfare state in the UK, as well as recapping the Beveridge report and its outcomes.


Following the events of WWII, damage was great to Britain. Recovery was a period that would last a while, and with the development of a welfare state, this would be catapulted. The public believed that Labour would best tackle the five giants that Beveridge had come up with. In 1941, Churchill believed he was able to order a commission to rebuild the nation after WWII. This encompassed multiple government departments and would look at nation’s welfare systems. William Beveridge was an economist and liberalist politician who was made chairman of this commission. On December 1st, 1942, he released The Beveridge Report. Arguably, this is the most important document of the 20th century.

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Many social issues existed at the time. One of them was Poverty. This has been seen as a key social issue. Many acts had been passed in order to tackle this. In 1946, the National Insurance Act was passed, this extended the act of 1911 to include all, prompting a more universal system. This provided sickness and unemployment benefit, as well as maternity benefit and widow benefit. Social provision was believed to be made for citizens from the

‘cradle to the grave’. Despite this, this scheme required a lot of officials in order to run it. Other acts were also passed after this, the Industrial Injuries act and National Assistance Act. These covered insurances against injuries for employees and set up resources that were required to citizens who’s needs were not met. In 1946, the National Health Service Act passed. Every British citizen was entitled to medical, dental and optical services for free. These benefits were hugely impactful however, the development of the NHS was hindered by the number of old hospitals. Costs were incredibly high and in 1950, free treatment was impaired when charges were introduced for some treatment such as dental. Britain continued to have slum areas, with overcrowding, a serious issue made worse by the effects of bombs during WWII. This essay will examine different issues existing that lead to the need for the development of the welfare state, Education, Health, Employment, Social Security and Housing.


Britain was transformed by the Industrial revolution. Population grew in size, leading to an increase in urban areas, as well as higher demand for jobs. Support systems for the population grew, as Government provided further care. Despite this, poverty was often seen as an issue attributed to idleness, as opposed to barriers such as socio-economic factors, due to a belief that state should run its own system of welfare. Beveridge believed in ‘cradle to grave’ security, this idea became more popular. His welfare state was proposed and soon integrated. The five giants identified by him were believed to be solved by him through an insurance system run by the state, a paradox to previous century beliefs, known for punishing the sick or those unable to work. The solution included a welfare state with social security, NHS, education for all and better housing and employment. With everyone paying sums to the government for their working period, they would in return receive aid. Using universal insurance removed a means tested system, one used previously. Expectations of Beveridge’s didn’t include a rising government expenditure due to insurance payments.



An issue before the release of the report was health. The NHS was passed in 1946, with every British person being entitled to receive free medical, dental and optical services for the first time. However, this development was slowed down by the amount of hospital lacking development. Before the introduction of the NHS, healthcare had many drawbacks. Medical care was private, restricting access to many and those who couldn’t afford it were looked down upon, seen as lazy, disregarding socio-economic factors.  The cost of care was rising, with quality decreasing. 

The 1848 Public Health Act was the first step taken to improve healthcare. This action taken by the government proved that positive action could occur. Edwin Chadwick argued that if the health of the poor was improved, less people would seek relief. Money spent on improving public health was cost effective, and in the long term would save money. The act was passed but had limited power and a lack of funding. Chadwick believed steps to improve healthcare were improved drainage, provision of clean drinking water, and appointing medical officers in towns. Despite the effort, it didn’t compel action but gave local authorities framework. Lloyd George, the chancellor established a system of National Health Insurance in 1911. Individuals contributed and in return received cash benefits for sickness and disability. This lasted from 1912-1948. It offered basic GP care and may have been the largest health system before 1948. The poor law offered relief to Britons and workhouses provided infirmaries of their own. The public health system provided a variety of services such as school meals and health education. By 1930, hospital provision had expanded to Poor Law hospitals. However, Britain’s health care system didn’t work well before 1948. Those who needed it did not have access. There was a lack of hospital care and lack of access for dependants such as families of working men. Due to this, major financial problems may have been caused. With a system that was needs based and selective, not all could receive help, increasing social and economic issues.

The NHS was the first system to offer free care to all and paid for through tax, however hospitals were nationalised and this service was free until 1951, where charges were imposed for dental care and prescriptions. The lack of accessibility was what led to the NHS, factors that contributed to the development of the welfare state, as many in need could not receive the care they needed due to socio-economic circumstances. Despite this, some believe the



NHS was not necessary. Due to the existence of charitable hospitals, supported by the rich such as Handel and Reynolds. In 1938, 52% of income of the voluntary sector came from paving patients. As these hospitals existed for those in need, and were not criticised before, some failed to see the needs of the NHS, introduced for a system more universal. The Liberal government of 1906-14 contributed toward universal healthcare. From medical inspections in 1907 to health insurance for those earning less than £160 annually, the system was different to NHS however still claimed benefit to many. This was paid for workers and employers instead of taxes however only available to the payer and not their family. Prior to NHS, people were terrified to get ill, as they couldn’t afford treatment. Ensuring equal access meant everyone was treated and able to work. This combatted ‘idleness’, due to no more barriers. The less they were in poverty, the less money they needed from the state.

The introduction of the Beveridge report was subsequent to other factors that were leading to a less satisfying lifestyle, employment and social security. Pre-1948, working conditions varied however many were dissatisfied under the poor law. In 1946, the National Insurance Act was passed, providing sickness and unemployment benefit as well as retirement pension. This covered ‘cradle to the grave’, allowing all citizens to be covered from birth to death. In this year, the Industrial Injuries act was passed, making insurance against injury compulsory. The quality of care in workhouses was decreasing with concern rising. Poor Law board members made reports on quality and found that between 1862 and 1865, widespread unemployment led to overcrowding in work houses, with them providing more beds for ill than hospitals. More and more people became ill due to poor working conditions, and subsequently, unemployment rose to higher levels, leading to more slums and low living conditions. This became a concern for business owners, wanting their workers to be healthy and efficient. Due to this, an increasing need for reform came about. With employment being a clear issue, Marshall Aid was introduced in 1948. This was nationalised by the government, with road haulage, railway and coal industries and steel in 1951. By doing this, the government created many jobs, reducing unemployment and keeping the economy stable through public spending, preventing economic depression. Further issues included social security. 120 years ago, Germany became the first to adopt an Insurance Programme,





designed by Otto von Bismarck, considered a socialist ((Ilo.org, 2009).2 He aimed to promote wellbeing to keep the German economy the most efficient it could be. This ensured a system of income security. This inspired social security in UK. Following WWII, a greater need for insurance schemes rose, in 1941, Winston Churchill committed to improving labour standards and social security. National assistance act was also passed in 1948, providing for those no covered by the national insurance act. In 1946, Clement Atlee passed the National

insurance act, beginning the structure of the welfare state. This gave necessary contributions for sickness, unemployment and old age pensions (Brown, 2001) 3. All those in work paid towards this. The National Assistance act was also created, allowing help for anyone in need. However, some would not be entitled due to lack of contribution. Family allowances act (1945) was introduced, as well as the national injuries act, allowing anyone injured to receive extra benefits as well as pay regardless, thus beneficial as all were entitled, regardless of age. National assistance allowed a safety net for those in need. Voluntary assistance meant not all had to pay in. However, this may have allowed for inequality as not all would be able to afford paying in. Beveridge believed that tackling poverty required NHS, family allowance and employment. Family allowance was created due to birth rates falling, reducing the

employable population. Before the introduction of these, social security was lacking, and often means based, resulting in many not receiving or having access to the same opportunities as others, increasing expenditure for the government. Thus, the Beveridge report was needed and provided a balance so all could receive the same benefits and security. For those who had not paid enough other tiers of welfare provision were provided. The financial aspect of this was meant to be supplementary to the main scheme, that everyone had a right. Thus, supporting a collectivist view.


Finally, other issues were housing and education. Prior to 1945, not all were able to receive education allowing them to create a better future. However, in 1944, the Education act was passed, making secondary education compulsory till 15, as well as providing meals and medical service at school. At 11, an exam decided where children would go and those who


succeeded were seen as going on to university and high paying jobs. However, those who failed were not expected to stay at school and presumed to be unemployed. This did not contribute towards creating equal opportunities. Some people were against this as building schools took time and focus was lost on certain areas such as secondary school after primary. Beveridge saw the need for equal education due to the large percentage that weren’t receiving it previously, leading to a better-informed community and preventing unemployment. Housing was a continuous issue that rose in the 19th century, due to WWII damage. Slum

areas existed in Britain, with overcrowding, presenting a serious issue risking spread of disease. To tackle this, the government built working class homes, 200,000 a year. The New Town act in 1946 laid plans for 14 new towns such as East Kilbride. However, despite this, Labour record did not compare to the efforts of the Conservatives in 1950, as a shortage was left. Other acts passed by Beveridge were the Town and Country planning act (1947), a target was set for 300,000 new houses, with 1.25 million council houses being built between years of 1945-1951. The children’s act of 1948 required councils to provide good housing for all kids deprived of a normal home life. Previous existing issues built upon a means based system were a catalyst for the introduction of the welfare state.


The Labour Government of 1945 had clear aims to eliminate poverty, disease and unemployment. Their policies were driven by their own ideals as well as the Beveridge report, the author being an advisor to Churchill. He based his principles of establishing a more universal system, aiming to tackle the five giants holding society back. This introduced

an abundance of schemes such as the town and country act and the national insurance act, dealing with issues from sickness to social security to housing, issues all interlinked.  These created the foundation for the growing welfare state. These reforms responded to economic, social and political events occurring, and aimed to tackle issues that presented themselves. In conclusion, factors of housing, social security, health, education and employment led to the development of the welfare state by highlighting what had been lacking previously.

1 http://www.spicker.uk/social-policy/history.htm

2 http://www.ilo.org/global/publications/world-of-work-magazine/articles/ilo-in-history/WCMS_120043/lang–en/index.htm


3 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/mar/14/past.education



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