There are biblical verses that seem to predict that the poor will always be amongst us and yet there are other promptings there to always give aid to the poor and needy. The logical interpretation of this is that society should give help to the poor & vulnerable, but don’t expect it to change anything! That cynical interpretation of life is luckily not however reflected in the modern strivings to provide an effective welfare state in Britain.
While most people might think that state concern and provision for the poor is a thing of the postwar era, it is in fact something that has been around for many hundreds of years (though some early oppressive actions might make George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith’s austerity cuts look pretty trivial). There has always been support for the poor through charities and charitable individuals (though the drop-off in ‘god-fearing’ churchgoing rich people in our increasingly corrupt and mercenary society might have put a stop on much of that).
A century or more ago there were times when areas in Britain experienced extreme poverty for a large fraction of the inhabitants, and that drove the need for state change and the foetus of the welfare state was formed. The birth was finally achieved after the Second World War when a Labour government under PM Attlee took steps to implement the arguments and recommendations of economist and Liberal William Beveridge to tackle squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. Despite the warnings and behests of the time to avoid abuse of such a Welfare State, we have spent more than 50 years since then heading steadfastly down that road – now we have ended up with a welfare state that is bankrupting us all. It is mesmerizing that we have defined being ‘below the poverty level’ these days, not as having too little to eat or nowhere to live or being unclothed or being unable to get medical treatment or lacking educational opportunities or being cold or living in squalor or slums or being in sheerest want, but some smart alec (an academic no doubt) has decided that poverty actually was having less than 60% of the average household income, So apparently you can have ‘everything you need’ for a comfortable life including accommodation, food, fags and booze and Sky TV and be ‘above’ the poverty line; then the rest of the families in your road get a pay rise and you are suddenly now ‘below’ the poverty line – you are classified as poor (‘relative’ to others – mind you, if they compared you to the population in a developing country you would be ‘rich’. This must be some kind of madness.
The problem with all this is that it masks the real issue, which is that there are genuinely poor families in the UK, and we need to focus on the true factors that cause that and do something about them to eliminate them for all people. Blow the dust off the original Beveridge report and get back to basics by judging poverty against his term of the ‘five giant evils’. Britain needs new policy measures to tackle poverty, not a load of kibosh reports from rich never heard of by the public so called economists (such as Howard Reed who presently concludes that the majority of our children will soon be below the breadline – he probably takes into account that they will have only two pairs of Nike trainers and most of their friends have three).
It is true that there was an ambition originally in the 1940s that the Welfare State would be there for people ‘from cradle to grave’, but that was never intended to imply a provision that whole families would be supported by society, through a number of generations, for their all their natural lives; nor did it mean that Britain would extend such support to every foreigner who disembarked on our shores, whether legally or illegally, or every terrorist or criminal who gets here and is against our principles and would love to destroy our society.
A t least a quarter of all our government money is now spent on welfare including pensions– so that is by far the biggest spending department in Britain. No one apart from the unemployed want this level of cost to carry on like this and it is actually increasing. How the heck did our politicians get the country into that position? What are we going to do about it? We can’t simply slash the budgets abruptly as the current government is doing to cause untold misery to millions of our people. We have to wean our society off excessive dependency on the welfare state – you don’t get heroin addicts off that addictive drug by simply and suddenly withdrawing the dope.
This is all a far cry from the idealistic and genuine plan we started out with postwar for an affordable caring Welfare State!
[This is one of a number of Posts that comment on the effect of significant changes brought about by Political Parties]Why not have a read?:
Creation of a Welfare State 
Bus Deregulation 
Destruction of the Railway system 
Sunday Opening Shame