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Britain 1850-1979. The Arrival of the Welfare State 1945-1951. Aims. Examine the impact of World War Two on Britain. Identify the main ideas and principles behind the Beveridge Report. The Impact of World War Two. Evacuation

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Britain 1850-1979

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britain 1850 1979

Britain 1850-1979

The Arrival of the Welfare State 1945-1951

  • Examine the impact of World War Two on Britain.
  • Identify the main ideas and principles behind the Beveridge Report
the impact of world war two
The Impact of World War Two
  • Evacuation

The evacuation of 1.5 million people made many others aware of the depth and extent of poverty which existed in Britain.

  • Equality of Sacrifice

Both rich and poor suffered during the Blitz and were forced to rely on the government after their homes were reduced to rubble

the impact of world war two4
The Impact of World War Two
  • War Socialism

The government had to intervene in many areas of peoples’ lives in order to coordinate the war effort. Many new government departments were set up e.g. the Ministry of Food

  • Changing Attitudes to Social Security

The war showed the British people that government intervention was the most effective way of meeting peoples’ needs during the war.

the impact of world war two5
The Impact of World War Two

The experience of war increased

government intervention and changed

peoples’ attitudes – the British people

were not just concerned with winning

the war but they were also concerned

about what life in Britain would be

like after the war.

william beveridge
William Beveridge
  • Born in India. Trained as a lawyer
  • As a civil servant he helped with the introduction of National Insurance and Labour Exchanges under the Liberal Government.
  • 1919 became Director of the London School of Economics and held positions in London and Oxford Universities.
william beveridge7
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


  • Want
  • Disease
  • Idleness
  • Ignorance
  • Squalor
the beveridge report9
The Beveridge Report

According to Beveridge the 5 Giants

could be tackled:

  • Want by establishing a comprehensive social security system
  • Disease by establishing a new health service
  • Idleness by the state aiming for full employment
  • Ignorance by reforming the education system
  • Squalor by a new housebuilding and slum clearance programme
the beveridge report10
The Beveridge Report

The new system had to be based on

certain principles:

  • Comprehensive
  • Universal
  • Insurance Based
  • Compulsory
  • Integrated
  • Flat rate
  • Provide subsistence
  • Non-means tested
the beveridge report11
The Beveridge Report
  • Beveridge was proposing 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 and the public bought over 635,000 copies.
  • Not everyone enthusiastically welcomed Beveridge’s recommendations.
the beveridge report12
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

the labour government 1945 1951
The Labour Government 1945-1951

After coming to power in a landslide

Election victory the new Labour

Government led by Clement Atlee

introduced reforms in the following


  • Social Security
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Employment
social security
Social Security
  • National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946
  • National Insurance Act 1946
  • National Assistance Act 1948
criticisms of social security
Criticisms of Social Security
  • Benefit levels were fixed for 5 years but inflation reduced their value.
  • Benefits were only 19% of the average industrial wage and well below subsistence level.
  • Many people were forced into applying for National Assistance.
  • The system was a marked improvement BUT poverty was not eliminated.
  • The NHS Act became law in 1946 but did not come into effect until 1948.
  • Piloted through Parliament by Aneruin Bevan the Health Minister.
  • Great opposition from doctors who feared the loss of their private practices. The government compromised and allowed consultants to continue their practices on a part-time basis.
  • Doctors were also paid a capitation fee for each patient.
  • NHS provided people with free medical, dental and optical treatment.
  • NHS faced a backlog of untreated problems. Prescriptions rose from 7 to 13.5 million between 1945-1948.
  • Main problem was funding the NHS – mainly through taxation.
  • By 1950 NHS was costing £358 million a year and the Labour government had to introduce charges for spectacle and dental treatment.
  • Plans for new hospitals and health centres were shelved.
  • Birch says the NHS was ‘the greatest single achievement in the story of the welfare state’
  • Main problem was the shortage and poor condition of school buildings – 20% had been destroyed or damaged during the war.
  • By 1950, 1176 new schools were built or under construction. This helped to cope with ‘baby boom’.
  • In secondary education, pupils were allocated to one of three schools following the 11+ intelligence test.
  • The 11+ was supposed to be a fair means of selecting children. In reality children from better off families went to grammar schools.
  • Labour did little to enhance the education of working class children. It was 1964 before comprehensive schools became Labour party policy.
  • Major housing shortages at the end of the war – 700,000 had been destroyed.
  • Lack of building workers and a shortage/high cost of building materials.
  • Government concentrated on the building of private houses. Between 1945-1951 four council houses were built for every private one.
  • Between 1945-1948, 157,000 prefabs built as a temporary solution to housing shortages.
  • By 1951 there was a still a shortage of 750,000 houses and poor housing and homelessness were serious problems.
  • 1944 white paper on Employment policy committed the government to the ‘maintenance of a high and stable level of employment after the war’.
  • By 1946 unemployment was running at 2.5%.
  • Not clear whether this was caused by policies such as nationalisation, the post-war boom or Marshall Aid from America (aid to help European countries rebuild their economies).
  • Between 1946-1949 Labour nationalised key industries e.g. Bank of England, coal, electricity, gas, airlines, public transport, iron and steel.
  • These industries were no longer privately owned but run by the government.
  • It was argued the government could then use the profits from these industries to tackle social and economic problems.
  • Nationalisation was costly. Many industries needed modernised and money had to be invested.
  • The government tried to improve wages and working conditions for workers in these industries but this had limited success.
  • The government also found it difficult to improve these industries and provide a better service to the public
an assessment of the labour reforms hostile viewpoints
An Assessment of the Labour Reforms – Hostile Viewpoints
  • Welfare state only applied a ‘bandage’ to Britain’s problems. Deprivation and poverty continued to exist.
  • Middle class benefited more than the working class particularly in education where more money was spent on grammar schools.
  • Too many compromises were made to establish the NHS. Private health care continued but the middle classes could also benefit from free health care.
an assessment of the labour reforms hostile viewpoints27
An Assessment of the Labour Reforms – Hostile Viewpoints
  • The working class received an inferior service (NHS) ‘but for a higher level of payment through taxes and direct charges’ (Webster).
  • Labour cannot take sole credit for the welfare state. They completed what previous government had begun, the war played a huge part in paving the way and if the Conservatives had been elected in 1945 they would probably have introduced something similar.
an assessment of the labour reforms friendly viewpoints
An Assessment of the Labour Reforms – Friendly Viewpoints
  • Labour completed a welfare system that had grown up since the 19th century.
  • The five giants were under attack and the state was providing a safety net from the ‘cradle to the grave’.
  • Rowantree investigated poverty in York in 1950. It had gone down to 2% compared to 36% in 1936.
an assessment of the labour reforms friendly viewpoints29
An Assessment of the Labour Reforms – Friendly Viewpoints
  • The new Labour Government in 1945 lacked political experiences and the country faced serious economic difficulties at the end of the war – their achievements were commendable.
  • The government didn’t simply follow Beveridge’s report. Detailed plans had to be drawn up for reforms such as the NHS.
  • Many doubt the Conservatives would have completed the welfare state if they had been elected in 1945.