POWER

The Welfare State

The Welfare State


The Welfare State

The Welfare State began to take shape at the beginning of the 20th century under the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. Today the Welfare State includes the National Health Service, means-tested benefits for those with a very low income, includes support for the disabled or long-term unemployed, as well as contributory benefits for those who have been in employment and who have paid National Insurance.

The purpose of means-testing is to identify those in most need of Income Support. There are a number of practical challenges relating to means-tested benefits. These include:

  • The claims process which can be a long and complicated process, especially for those with low levels of numeracy and literacy. This may put people off going through the process.
  • They may discourage people from saving because means-tested benefits take into account the savings you have.
  • People on benefits are often labelled and stigmatized.
  • Some people who claim benefits are caught in the poverty trap, in which paid work pays less than government benefits. This may lead to a dependency culture.

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Debates about the Welfare State

Almost everyone has something to say about the way the Welfare State is organized. This is because it is funded by the tax payer and people are concerned with where their money is going. Political attitudes towards the Welfare State tend to go along the following lines:

  • Those on the political left (traditionally associated with Labour) tend to think that the state should take on a lot of responsibility for the health and wealth of its citizens.
  • Those on the political right (traditionally associated with the Conservatives) tend to think that individual’s should take on greater responsibility for their own welfare. They may express the view that people should protect themselves against misfortune and old age with health insurance, savings and private pensions.

The Conservatives tend to place extra emphasis on the private sector where health can be provided independent of the state in places like private hospitals and nursing homes. Others believe that charitable organizations should play a greater role in looking after the welfare of the nation.