SIR WILLIAM BEVERIDGE - BIOGRAPHY
Born 1879. First journalist on Morning Post , then civil servant, academic and politician. Lifetime expertise in unemployment and labour-market problems. Pioneered first national network of labour exchanges (job centres) in 1910 - in today's terms, Chief Executive of Employment Services Agency. Permanent secretary aged 39, then Director of LSE, later Master of University College, Oxford. Chaired new Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee 1934-44.
Rejoined civil service in World War II. Asked in June 1941 - to own disappointment - to chair inquiry on improving administration of benefits.
Report Social Insurance and Allied Services (pub Dec 1942) focused lifetime's experience of social policy. Vision of defeating the Five Giants of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness roused euphoric public reaction. By Feb 1943 National Government committed in principle to most of plan's recommendations despite reservations about cost and raising expectations.
Further influential but unofficial study, Full Employment in a Free Society , pub 1944. Briefly Liberal MP for Berwick on Tweed 1944/45. Created peer 1946. Died 1963.
BENEFITS BEFORE BEVERIDGE: THE PROBLEM
Pre-1948, some benefits existed for most risks, but provision fragmented and uneven:
Unified, universal and comprehensive insurance-based system - available "to all classes for all purposes" - backed up with universal access to consistent means-tested benefits. Based on six fundamental principles:
Other significant recommendations:
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF THE BEVERIDGE PLAN
Enormous simplification compared to previous arrangements. Rational, logical, inconsistencies eliminated. But inflexible and difficult to fine-tune
Flat-rate contributions simple but - over time unsustainable. Flat rates affordable by lower-paid workers not capable of financing benefits at politically acceptable levels. From 1961, earnings-linked contributions introduced to avoid deficits - full earnings-relation from 1975
Common benefit rates for unemployment, sickness and pensions rational but did not take account of:
Concept was for state foundation on which individuals could build through their own efforts. In practice State role dominant: created excessive expectations from State, lacked structures to encourage non-state provision
Insurance-based scheme focused on interruptions in/cessation of employment in normal working life. Took insufficient account of inability to acquire contribution record through disability or caring responsibilities. Later seen as serious weakness in overall vision
Provisions for married women based on rigid assumption of male breadwinner/female homemaker. Unresponsive to post-war social and labour market changes. One in three married women opted out of insurance in 1948, laying long-term basis for gender disparity in income in old age
Fundamental structural problem caused by Government's rejection of Beveridge's recommendation for subsistence-level insurance benefits combined with the 1948 introduction of pensions at lower than recommended rate. This forced large continued post-war reliance on means-tested National Assistance - intended by Beveridge only to be residual
ORIGINS OF TERM "WELFARE STATE"
GOVERNMENT OBJECTIVES IN CREATING WELFARE STATE
"To plan for the prevention of individual poverty resulting from those hazards of personal fortune over which individuals have little or no control" (Cmd 6550, 1944, para 1)
"Freedom from want must be achieved in the first instance by social insurance - benefits must be earned by contributions" (Cmd 6550, 1944, para 7)
Why a universal scheme?
"In a matter so fundamental it is right for all citizens to stand together , without exclusions based upon difference of status, function or wealth" (Cmd 6550, para 33)
"The scheme as a whole will embrace, not certain occupations and income groups, but the entire population. Concrete expression is thus given to the solidarity and unity of the nation , which in war have been its bulwarks against aggression and in peace will be its guarantees of success in the fight against individual want and mischance" (Cmd 6550, 1944, para 8)
Why start NHS and National Insurance together?
Pre-1948 sickness insurance combined cash benefits and payment for medical needs in one contribution. Beginning a free health service and the other new schemes together avoided altering contributions
Why 5 July?
Marked end of contribution year for existing health insurance - itself linked to the start of national sickness insurance in 1912 under Lloyd George's 1911 Act
|[ Home|||||50 Years in Pictures|||||The Evolution of Social Security|||||Factsheets ]|
|The Beveridge Report|
|Before the Welfare State|
|Building National Insurance|
|Benefits then and now|
|Women, children and child support|
|The aftermath of war|
|The contemporary view|