The Success Of The Welfare State

1847 words - 7 pages

The Success of the Welfare State
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. Founded on principles of the
“deserving” (sick, the very old, physically impaired, mentally
handicapped, the mentally ill) and “undeserving” poor (anyone
able-bodied who was not working) the Law aimed to provide the bare
minimum of support, below that provided by the lowest wages. The 1834
Act emphasised two principles, that of less eligibility – attempting
to reduce the number of people who qualified for relief; and the
workhouse test – the welfare that was provided would be done within
workhouses at a level below the living standards of the lowest paid
independent worker.

Therefore only those who were truly in need would rely on it (Fulcher
and Scott, 1999/2003; Timmins, 1995; Taylor 1995/2005). In practice
the Act did little more than formalise measures already widely in
place across the country, but its importance lies in its introduction
of the concept of a national, unified response to social problems. In
1870 the Education Act created compulsory free education for all
children up to the age of twelve. In the second half of the century
philanthropists and social observers such as Booth and...

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