During the year of 1945 the Labour party under Clement Atlee laid down the foundations of the welfare state and subsequently, since the 1950’s the welfare state has been regarded as one of the UK’s most significant and precious assets. This staple asset was introduced as a response to the five “Giant Evils” in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. The welfare state utilizes a part of the annual government budget to guarantee a minimum standard of living and social protection in the event of insecurity. This social programme is expressed in a range of institutions; from the National Health Service to compulsory state education.
All three mainstream political parties have reached and expressed a rare consensus to protect and uphold the welfare state. However to what extent the welfare state will be protected is debateable by each individual party. Seeing as it was a Labour party initiative, the party has continuously increased government spending on the welfare state. Since Labour came to power in 1997 there have been particularly large average annual increases in spending on the NHS (5.7% a year) and education (3.9% a year). However as the coalition government triumphed Labour in the 2010 general election, there has been speculations and reports of a radical reform to the welfare state which would place it in danger.
Iain Duncan Smith the works and pension secretary has outlined a radical alteration to the welfare state claiming ‘My general view is that the benefit system is a deeply ineffective and costly way of subsidising people’s lives.’ One aspect of this reform is the Welfare Reform Act which received Royal Assent on 8th March 2012. Some elements of this act includes’ changes to support a new system of child support which puts the interest of the child first’ and ‘the introduction of Universal Credit to provide a single streamlined benefit that will ensure work always pays’. This Act proposes the biggest change to the welfare system for over 60 years, therefore altering it drastically can be arguing to placing it in danger.
Seeing as the reforms haven’t been implemented and the results of it haven’t been witnessed it is difficult to state whether the welfare state is in danger. However with criticisms coming from most corners of society, Britain’s beloved welfare state is going to be under the magnifying glass in the years to come as the true effects of these reforms start to unravel.