2a: Provision of Social Welfare (Britain 1918-79)

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Welfare in 1918

  • Based on Victorian Poor Laws
  • Benefits from Unemployment Insurance Act 1911 - providing 7 shillings per week for 15 weeks per year
  • Low payment as average salary was 20 shillings per week
  • 10% of male population covered by this Act
  • Reliant on private charity for any medical care
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Growth in 1920s Welfare Provison

  • Unemployment Insurance Act 1920 - Insurance from 4 million workers to 11.4 million.
  • 75p per week for men and 60p per week for women
  • Low as average bus driver earnt £3 per week
  • State funded dole without a means test justified by fears a Revolution like in Russia 1917 would occur, the need to support soldiers (1/3 of unemployed were ex servicemen) and the idea that the state should provide for those in need
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Welfare in the 1930s

  • Controversial due to economy
  • Snowden advocated a 10% cut in benefits leading to downfall of Labour in 1931 and formation of National Government
  • The 1931 National Economy Act (due to frantic selling of £ in America) - means test for unemployed disqualifying short term workers (affected shipyards - season work) & areas like Wales and Tyneside. Benefits could only be claimed for 6 months. After 6 months, Public Assistance Committee would investigate your case
  • The Unemployment Act 1934 - reserved 10% cut in benefit but made cuts to long-term workers. 300,000 marched in Wales
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Welfare in WW2

  • Evacuation - 1939 - 1.5 million children assuming private charity would support so no clothes/food etc
  • Rationing - January 1940. Bacon, butter and sugar. Jam, tea and eggs followed in 1941. Point system but people grew vegetables. Alcohol increased in price- 3p-7p for a pint of beer. Health of public largely increased with subsidised milk for children
  • Clothes - 1941 onwards - 66 coupons with a dress costing 11 coupons. Utility clothing designed but pre-war clothing was very good quality
  • Black Market thrived but only Upper Classes could afford this
  • Resturants also became rationed offering limited amount of meat/fish
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The Beveridge Report 1942

  • Post-war Britain vision by William Beveridge
  • Identifed five giant evils --> squalor, ignorance, idelness, want and disease
  • New welfare state with universal benefits
  • Sent to soldiers as form of propaganda and endorsed by The Times and The Telegraph which was typically conservative
  • Sold many copies as form of morale
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Labour's Creation of the Welfare State

  • 1945 - Landslide victory with slogan 'Let us Face the Future'
  • Aimed to create a Welfare State 'From the cradle to the grave'
  • The Family Allowances Act 1945 - 25p a week child benefits payable to mother - small income
  • The National Insurance Act 1946- 25p charge on all wages. Pension to men over 65 and women over 60 - £1.30 a week for single & £2.10 per week for married couple. Everyone paid same amount regardless of wealth
  • The Industrial Injuries Act 1946 - Workers having a legal right to compensation. 1/4 of deaths in workplace in mines. 2500 killed a year at work
  • The National Assistance Act 1948- Welfare to those not covered by NI including disabled and women. Abolished Public Assistance Committee and gave responsibilities to LAs
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Welfare Consensus

  • Broad agreement over the role of the state
  • Harold Macmillan was very popular and wrote The Middle Way. He claimed that Conservatives had a duty to proivde for working classes
  • Britain spent less on welfare than France and Germany
  • Child Povery Action group claimed - 720,000 children living in poverty
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Challenges to state Welfare Provision, 1964-79

  • Sir Keith Joseph argued it created a dependency culture inspired by writings of Friedrich Hayek
  • Led to economic inefficiency. Private businesses run to make a profit
  • High amount of borrowing leading to inflation as no increase of goods in the economy
  • People preferred to live off small handouts than a wage and wouldn't get a job
  • More of the working class became aspirational
  • IMF Cuts - loan of $4billion led to £2.5billion in cuts
  • Press critical of dependency state like Financial Times and Telegraph
  • Conservatives attacked Wilson's policies such as Universal Child Benefit but in 1970 National Insurance Act Heath created generous welfare benefits including pension rights to 100,000 more and rent subsidies for low income families
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