William Beveridge The Architect of The Welfare State
(1879 - 1963)
William Beveridge, responsible for the 'Beveridge Report' which has since formed the basis for much social legislation c.1943
In 1946, Beveridge was made a peer and became leader of the Liberals in the House of Lords.
Beveridge was born in 1879 in India, at that time part of the British Empire. He studied law at Oxford University where he became fascinated by early forms of social security, rapidly turning into an authority on pensions and unemployment benefits. At the beginning of the twentieth century, his thinking already had an impact on the development of a national insurance scheme and influenced policy on poverty in the UK. Soon after the First World War, he was knighted.
When, in 1941, the government commissioned a report into the ways that Britain should be rebuilt after World War Two, Beveridge was an obvious choice to take charge. He published his report in 1942 and recommended that the government should find ways of fighting the five 'Giant Evils' of 'Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness'.
In 1945, the Labour Party defeated Winston Churchill's Conservative Party in the general election. The new prime minister, Clement Attlee, announced he would introduce the welfare state outlined in the 1942 Beveridge Report. This included the establishment of a National Health Service in 1948 with free medical treatment for all. A national system of benefits was also introduced to provide 'social security' so that the population would be protected from the 'cradle to the grave'. The new system was partly built on the national insurance scheme set up by Lloyd George in 1911. The relevance of Beveridge`s approach was however not confined to the United Kingdom. Many leading politicians from across the world spent time in London during the Second World War, and were well aware of the proposals contained in the Beveridge report.
The vision of William Beveridge shone through his 1942 report. His ideas were truly revolutionary, Beveridge was the architect of world-wide models for the modern welfare state, most social work in western European countries is currently delivered within the context of the welfare state, whose origins can be traced back to the work of Sir William Henry Beveridge at the time of the Second World War.
Beveridge also believed that full employment was a crucial part of the welfare programme and in 1944, he published another report called ‘Full Employment in a Free Society.’ In the same year he became Liberal Member of Parliament and, after losing his seat in 1945, served as a Liberal peer in the House of Lords becoming leader of the Liberals In 1946. William Beveridge died on 16 March 1963.
"Social security must be achieved by co-operation between the State and the individual. The State should offer security for service and contribution. The State in organising security should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility ; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family."
A revolutionary moment in the world’s history is a time for revolutions, not for patching.
"Social security with freedom and responsibility!" W. B