The Coming of the Welfare State

The Coming of the Welfare State

The Coming of the Welfare State

The Coming of the Welfare State

Excerpt

This book is an attempt to show how the Welfare State of the present day has grown out of the needs of the English people and out of the struggle for social justice. Two themes run through it. The first is that of the acceptance of community responsibility, through the "poor law", and, later, by other means, for the less fortunate members of society. This was first given statutory expression under Queen Elizabeth I and was then based on the parish. The story of the poor law from the sixteenth century until its final abolition in 1948 is the story of the slow widening of the area of responsibility, from the parish, through the Union (1834) to the Local Authority (1930), and eventually, under the Unemployment Assistance Board of 1934 and the National Assistance Board of 1948, to the nation as a whole. This widening of the area of responsibility was matched by a similar widening of the range of services provided, from simple "out-relief" and the more complex issues of "setting the poor on work" to National Assistance and Full Employment; from the apprenticing of poor children to the provision of a State system of education; from the care of the sick poor to the environmental health services of the nineteenth century and the National Health Service of today.

The widening of both the area of responsibility and the range of services has been an essentially practical response to the problems and conditions of English society as it developed and became more self-conscious. This practical approach, typically English as it is, is our second theme.

Underlying these themes, of course, has been the problem of resources, both in finance and in administration. Throughout the long period we have to consider there has been a constant struggle over the raising of the resources required for the services at the time considered necessary. Not until the present century, with its dreadful example of two wars of national survival, has it been accepted that in the last resort the resources of the nation can and must be used for what the Elizabethans called the "common weal", which is at once the basis and the essence of the Welfare State.

How far, in fact, the nation's resources actually are used, or should still further be used, is a matter of current controversy, but changes continue to take place under our eyes at a pace which would have seemed impossible even in quite recent times. With the Welfare State, therefore, as with other aspects of British life at the present time, particularly in the Commonwealth, one is conscious of the span and movement of history. To what we are trying to do, past generations, in their own strivings and endeavours, have contributed so much. And when one recalls that it was only in . . .

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