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has welfare state suceeded

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Introduction

Has the welfare state succeeded? The term "welfare state" refers to the provisions made by a state intended to protect its citizens from social problems - principally ill health, unemployment, poor housing and lack of access to education. This essay will study the British experience of the welfare state and its initial aims and consider whether its modern form has succeeded in fulfilling them. Welfare provision is characterised, in Fulcher and Scott's view (1999/2003), by a varying amount of compromise between two polarised viewpoints: the market model, where citizens purchase healthcare, education and the like privately, against the welfare-state model, where the state fulfils welfare needs. Supporters of the market model believe that state welfare "is excessively bureaucratic and therefore inefficient" (Taylor et al, 1995/2005: 155). Pre-Industrial Britain had had no welfare state; provision was made on a local scale, typically at parish level, and was administered in the main by family with some assistance from religious bodies. The 1601 Poor Law Act was the first nationalised welfare legislation; people were tied to a particular parish to receive welfare. Despite the Act provision remained patchy and regionally variable (Taylor et al, 1995/2005). As the country's urban population grew in tandem with industrialisation, traditional rural support networks became "largely absent" (Fulcher and Scott, 1999/2003: 826). The deprivation suffered by the exploding urban working classes, coupled with fear of civil unrest, encouraged the ruling classes to formulate nation-wide strategies for welfare provision, expressed in the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. ...read more.

Middle

The Governments intervention in society throughout the First World War "prepared the way for a more state-managed form of capitalism." (Fulcher and Scott, 1999/2003: 832) The inter-war years saw long-term structural unemployment, economic depression and housing shortages. The Second World War meant a continuation of state intervention in welfare provision, while "civil defence brought social classes together" (Timmins, 1995: 34). It was into this climate of national unification against adversity that William Beveridge's ideas "provided the framework of the modern welfare state" (Taylor et al, 1995/2005: 155). His report, published in 1942, made recommendations for a national system of initiatives which would slay the "five giants" of social deprivation: want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. The report was based on universal principles. Every citizen would be granted benefits simply by dint of their citizenship. The National Insurance Act of 1946 was "the core of the Beveridge report: state-run insurance, paid for by employers, employees and the general taxpayer, from cradle to grave" (Timmins, 1995: 135). Following Keynesian ideas of state intervention in labour markets to ensure full employment, Beveridge's initiatives "argued along the grain of current thinking" (Timmins, 1995: 38) and were massively popular. The report also contained radical proposals for extending healthcare, education and improved housing to the populace - including the creation of the NHS via the National Health Act of 1948. ...read more.

Conclusion

His program took its cue for welfare reform from the "third way" theories of Giddens (1994, cited in Fulcher 1999/2003). The central core of Giddens' "third way" is the idea that citizenship entails obligations as well as rights - chief amongst which is the obligation to undertake paid employment if at all possible and contribute to the state through taxes. Blair's vision of "third way" Britain also encompassed a mixed economy of welfare, in which the state, the market, the voluntary (ie charity) sector and the informal (ie family and friends) sector combined to lessen the impact of the social problems targeted in the Beveridge report. Yet practical reality has not been radically different from Thatcher's reign, with privatisation continuing, benefits being reduced and being linked to participation in employment and training, continued rhetorical insistence on the responsibilities of the individual and "more than a hint of authoritarianism" (Fulcher and Scott, 1999/2003: 850). In its undiluted form - seen until 1979 - the welfare state made huge strides towards achieving its aims. The price of these gains - excessive inflation and high unemployment by the mid-1970s - allowed the contraction of the welfare state and the reversal of much of the progress made at the hands of Conservative governments since 1979. The current Labour administration has continued dismantling the welfare state, whilst masking its actions as a "third way" between market liberal and welfare state principles. ...read more.

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