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“From the Cradle to the Grave”. The Arrival of the Welfare State, 1945 -51. Definition. The Welfare state is a system of state help and benefits. It was started in 1945 by the Labour government and aimed to do away with the causes of poverty.

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“From the Cradle to the Grave”

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From the cradle to the grave

“From the Cradle to the Grave”

The Arrival of the Welfare State, 1945 -51



  • The Welfare state is a system of state help and benefits. It was started in 1945 by the Labour government and aimed to do away with the causes of poverty.

  • It was a universal scheme that applied to everyone.

  • Benefits were centrally organised and given out by the Government

  • People were now entitled to benefits having paid National Insurance.

Defeat hitler build a better britain

Defeat Hitler, build a better Britain

  • During the war, the number one topic of conversation was usually the state of the war at that particular time. The next big topic was always the new world after the war.

Total war

Total War

  • Total war involved sacrifices and contributions by everyone.

  • The government took control over the economy and people’s lives in a way never thought possible before.

  • War created a powerful unity of purpose and the question arose if it was possible to distribute resources equally in war time why not in peace time?

Shared experiences

Shared Experiences

  • Evacuation showed the well off classes the social deprivation of the inner cities.

  • Bombing affected everyone, rich or poor and both depended on state help when bombed out of their homes.

From the cradle to the grave

  • All war injured, soldiers or victims of bombing got free medical treatment.

  • Rationing meant that scarce resources were shared out fairly.

  • A Londoner observed: “People were much more together”

Churchill s coalition government

Churchill’s coalition government

  • Churchill formed a coalition government in 1940 during Britain’s “darkest hour”.

  • Atlee as deputy prime minister, Bevin, Cripps, Morrison, Greenwood and Dalton were all Labour ministers in the government.

Government action 1940 42

Government Action 1940 - 42

  • The Government began to introduce a number of reforms during the war

  • National Milk scheme

  • Provision of school meals and milk

  • Immunisation

  • State nurseries

  • Old age and widows’ pension Act

  • Determination of needs act

From the cradle to the grave

  • These measures were moving the social security system from selective to universal benefits. It could be argued that the war was laying the foundations of the modern welfare state and that the Labour government completed it.

William beveridge

William Beveridge

  • A civil servant, he helped to introduce National Insurance and Labour Exchanges under the Liberal Government.

  • 1919 - Director of the London School of Economics and held positions in London and Oxford Universities.

William beveridge1

William Beveridge

  • Involved in the planning of rationing which was introduced in 1940.

  • In 1941 he was asked by the coalition government to investigate how improvements could be made to the system of providing sickness and unemployment insurance.

The beveridge report

The Beveridge Report

Beveridge identified 5 Giants in Society that had to be tackled.

  • Want

  • Disease

  • Idleness

  • Ignorance

  • Squalor

How to tackle the 5 giants

How to tackle the 5 Giants?

  • Want - establish a comprehensive social security system

  • Disease - establish a new health service

  • Idleness - the state should aim to provide full employment

  • Ignorance - reform the education system

  • Squalor - clear slums and build new houses.

Principles behind the proposals

Principles behind the Proposals

The System was to be:

  • Comprehensive

  • Universal

  • Insurance Based

  • Compulsory

  • Flat rate

  • Provide subsistence

  • Non-means tested

The beveridge report1

The Beveridge Report

  • Beveridge proposed a new social security system funded from national insurance that would meet peoples’ needs from the ‘cradle to the grave’.

  • The Beveridge Report became a bestseller ,635,000 copies were sold.

  • Not everyone was enthusiastic about the proposals, how could Britain afford it?

The beveridge report2

The Beveridge Report

“The purpose of victory is to live in a better world than the old world; each individual citizen is more likely to concentrate upon his war effort if he feels his government will be ready in time with plans for that better world”

Extract from the Beveridge Report

Education act 1944

Education Act 1944

A comprehensive system set up

  • Primary, secondary and further education

  • There was to be free education for all up to the age of 15.

  • Recommended dividing secondary schools into grammar and secondary modern based on pupil ability at 11+ exam

  • This created a two tier system, pupils were either given an academic or vocational education.

Family allowances

Family Allowances

  • Family allowances were paid for each second and subsequent child in a family.

  • 5 shillings a week per child

  • Paid to the mother

  • Criticised because would only buy 1lb of tea, a tube of tooth paste and a mars bar.

Germany surrendered on the 8 th may 1945

Germany surrendered on the 8th May 1945.

The labour government 1945 1951

The Labour Government 1945-1951

Labour led by Clement Atlee won a landslide victory in the 1945 elections.

From the cradle to the grave

  • Churchill was defeated because people believed Labour not Conservatives would implement the Beveridge report.

Labour takes on the five giants

Labour takes on the Five Giants

From the cradle to the grave


  • Social security became universal and compulsory

  • Insured population would be entitled to unemployment, sickness, maternity and widows’ benefits, pensions and death grant to cover funeral costs.

National insurance act 1946

National insurance Act 1946

  • Man paid 4s 11d per week in contributions

  • Women and under 18s paid less

  • Weekly stamps stuck on card

  • Single man received 26s

  • Married man 42 s

  • 16s for wife

  • 7s 6d for first child

National insurance industrial injury 1946

National insurance ( industrial injury) 1946

  • Injured worker entitled to same benefits for six months

  • If injury lasted beyond this entitled to a pension.

National assistance act 1948

National Assistance Act 1948

  • National Assistance Act 1948 was the safety net to meet the needs of those not covered by the insurance schemes because not working, on low wages or handicapped.

  • Needs test required

  • Payments low either weekly or one off grants.

  • Did away with the workhouse but old people often needed help because pension was low.

5 th july 1948

5th July 1948

  • Ministry of National Insurance set up in Newcastle

  • 40,000 civil servants needed to administer the scheme to keep records of 25 million workers.

  • Scheme made a surplus in the first few years because unemployment was so low.



  • Compared to the past this was a marked improvement. However benefits were paid only after contributions had been received.

  • The levels of benefit were fixed for five years and by the time of implementation they were well below subsistence levels so people still had to apply for national assistance. Still a long way to go to address poverty.



  • In education, the biggest problem was shortage of schools, partly because of the bombing.

  • By 1950 1,176 schools, mostly primaries, were built.

  • Few technical schools built

  • Two tier system divisive

  • Only 20% of places were available at grammar schools so most children were classed as non academic and had no access to university or the professions.

  • Labour have been criticised for doing little to offer greater access to education for the working class.

  • It was 1964 before the idea of comprehensive education became party policy.



  • It was estimated that 469,000 new homes were needed in Scotland.

  • Responsibility for housing was given to the Ministry of Health.

  • Prefabs or factory built houses were a temporary solution to housing shortages.

  • 157,000 prefabs were built.

  • Bevan gave priority to council housing

The town and country planning act 1947

The Town and country planning act 1947

  • The Town and country planning act 1947 gave councils more power to buy land and redevelop areas.

  • 12 new towns were planned.

  • Good quality housing and a good environment with shops and leisure facilities.

  • Glenrothes and East Kilbride were the first two built in Scotland.

1949 housing act

1949 Housing Act

  • 1949 Housing act local authorities were allowed to buy up homes for improvement or conversion . They got grants of 75% from the government and 50% for private homes.

  • 700,000 homes were built but 750,000 homes still needed.



  • New house building was limited because of lack of skilled workers and materials.

  • 4 council houses were built for every private home.

  • Some families had to squat on disused army camps

  • Prefabs were supposed to be a temporary measure but were still being used 50 years later.

  • 750,000 homes were still needed.

  • Labour failed to solve the housing problem but this was due more to the scale of the problems facing the country after the war.



  • Dalton the chancellor of the exchequer claimed that full employment was “ the greatest revolution brought about by the Labour government”

  • By 1946 unemployment was only 2.5% but this could be due to the post war boom not labour policies.



  • Labour believed the state should take over industry and run them for the benefit of the people.

  • Bank of England, civil aviation, coal, communications, transport, elecricity, gas, iron and steel were all nationalised.

  • The government owned 20% of Britain’s industries.

  • Unfortunately many were inefficient and out of date and cost taxpayers’ money rather than make profits.



  • The National Health Service bill was piloted through parliament by Aneurin Bevin.

  • Under the previous system only 21 million workers were covered.

  • Not covered were

  • Dependents

  • Self employed

  • Uninsured

  • They had the additional anxiety of postponing treatment or facing bills

5 th july 19481

5th July 1948

  • The service proposed was universal

  • No limitation on the type of assistance and free

  • The NHS came into being on the “ appointed day”

  • July 5th 1948



  • Doctors were initially against the NHS

  • 40,814 voted against it and only 4,734 for it.

  • In the end doctors were bought off they would get 15s per NHS patient , money for prescription drugs and could keep their private patients.

  • 90% of doctors agreed to join.



  • Demand for the health service was huge.

  • Prescriptions rose from 7 million to 14 million per month

  • In the first year 5 million spectacles were dispensed and 8million dental patients treated.

  • The expense was enormous and was supposed to be met by general taxation.

  • By 1950 it cost £358 million.

  • Labour had to introduce prescription charges

  • Bevan resigned.

  • Despite the criticism the NHS was arguably the greatest single achievement in the story of the welfare state.

Assessment of the labour reforms

Assessment of the Labour reforms

  • In a sense Labour were completing the reforms begun a long time before.

  • The welfare state had evolved from the time of the surveys of Booth and Rowntree and the liberal reforms of David Lloyd George( some times called the father of the welfare state)

  • Attitudes had changed

  • Welfare support was believed to be a right, free of the shame of the poor law.

From the cradle to the grave

  • Labour’s achievement was more of modernising, improving and greatly extending an existing structure than building a completely new one.

  • Poverty had been reduced not eliminated

  • Rowntree completed another survey, now only 2.7% of the population were poverty stricken



  • The reforms involved large sums of money but a fit and healthy workforce would benefit the country

  • Family allowances were a cost effective way of relieving hardship

  • many millions were benefiting



  • The cost of welfare was so great that other priorities like industry were ignored.

  • Health and education reforms benefited the middle classes more than the working class

  • The reforms were not radical enough but Atlee did not want the reforms to be reversed by the next conservative government.



  • Atlee was successful, the conservatives largely accepted the welfare state

  • The attack on the five giants were underway

  • The state was now providing a safety net which protected all people from the cradle to the grave

Historians views

Historians’ views

  • Debate - whether the reforms had a beneficial or damaging effect.

  • Saville - reforms promised much but delivered little” damp squib”

  • Barnet - country decisively changed by 1957 but disastrous because prioritised social improvements at the expense of long term economic health.

  • Addison - the overall effect is more important than individual measures.

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