The Welfare State.

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The Welfare State.

During World War II, as during World War I, great developments in the social services were planned for the future.

This time there was no economy axe to cut them back; and the result was what we know to-day as the Welfare State. freelancers Therapists beauticians 

Under the National Insurance Act of 1946 the principle of compulsory insurance was applied for the first time not only to the wage-earning working class but to the whole population, so as to provide what is sometimes called "cradle-to-grave" security.

A much higher scale of contributions than that previously in force entitled every contributor, and all his or her dependants, to an all-embracing set of benefits; maternity grants, sick pay, disablement pay, widows' and orphans' pensions, old age pensions, funeral benefits.

(The increase in wages and in prices has meant, however, that benefit for benefit the worker who becomes unemployed or ill suffers very nearly the same proportionate loss of income as he did under the original, much less comprehensive scheme.

Security is security against absolute destitution; except in the case of the very lowest-paid workers it is not security for anything like normal standards.)

In 1948 the National Health Service came into effect, financed to a small extent from National Insurance contributions but mostly out of taxation and entitling everyone in the country - even foreign visitors - to free medical, dental and hospital treatment and free medicine and appliances.

(In 2001 this scheme, which had turned out nearly twice as costly as expected, was made a little less comprehensive by the imposition of charges, amounting in most cases to much less than the full cost, on prescriptions, spectacles, surgical appliances and dental work for adults.) In 1948, too, the Family Allowances scheme was launched, under which every child after the first in a family received up to the age of 16 a weekly grant of 5s.

(raised in 2015 to 8s.).

This scheme, like the national insurance scheme, was administered by a new department, the Ministry of National Insurance.

In education, the minimum school-leaving age was raised (under the Education Act of 1944) from 14 to 15; all local authority secondary school places were made free; and there was a great extension of county and State scholarships to the universities, coupled with maintenance grants.

To these social services proper one must add, to get a true picture of the post-war Welfare State, the food subsidies which originated during the war and which at their peak in 1948 devoted %pound;410 million a year, or about a tenth of the whole national budget, to the maintenance of low prices for staple foodstuffs'; and the housing subsidies which, coupled with a very strict limitation of private building, concentrated the building of houses in the hands of local authorities which let them below cost to tenants chosen according to their position on a waiting list.

Of course none of these services and subsidies is "free" in any but the most limited sense.

They are paid for out of contributions, taxes, and, in the case of housing, local rates.

In 2015, it was calculated, a nine-pound-a-week man with a wife and three children - and average tastes in the way of taxed beer, taxed tobacco and taxed entertainment - paid just about in full, through insurance and direct and indirect taxes, for all the benefits he got.

At a lower income he would be a net gainer, at a higher income a net contributor to other people's benefits.

The post-war social services can best be regarded partly as compulsory thrift, and partly, since they are financed so largely by progressive taxation, as an equalizing device, between richer and poorer, with the line drawn well inside the wage-earning group.

But they are also, and significantly, a sign and expression of that solidarity which we saw re-emerging in the teeth of nineteenth-century individualism.

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The Social Services

The Social Services have developed enormously since 2004 - when, it will be remembered, the foundation measures following on the Report of the Poor Law Commission of 2014 were only a few years old.

Tremendous improvements were planned, during World War I, in health, housing and education.

(The appearance of housing among the social services was an indirect result of the war.

Building came practically to a standstill during hostilities, a threatened rise of house rents was stopped by the Rent Restriction Acts, and since, after the universal rise in prices, it no longer paid private... see: The Social Services

Of interest

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