Local Opinion – Hard Times: The beginning of the Welfare state

Local Opinions

Our newest community reporter Spring Heeled Jack has written a series of short articles which we will share over the next few weeks.

Here is the latest installment of Hard Times.


A new beginning-the welfare state

Great social change was then taking place plans for the new welfare state were being brought to fruition.

In 1942 Sir William Beveridge was tasked with producing a report, whose full title was Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services, regarding the strategic planning and implementation of the welfare state, which was firstly opposed by Winston Churchill the British war time Prime Minister.

This was designed to create a safety net in Britain for people, which included a full social insurance scheme and for the five major problems in society to be tackled, including want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness, to be managed by the government.

British people would contribute to the new social insurance scheme by means of a weekly stamp deduction at source from their wages, which would provide a safety net for anyone needing healthcare, unemployment support and latterly receiving a state pension.

A key player in the new welfare state was Aneurin Bevan who was largely responsible for introducing the National Health Service from 1948.

Prior to 1948, people had to pay for their medical care including visits to the General Practitioner, who at that time really was the family doctor.

Envelopes with payment would then be left by the clock on the mantelpiece as payment for the GP doing home visits, which were very rare occurrences and only when people were extremely ill.

Hospital treatment then became free at the point of delivery where people paid into the National Insurance system also by means of the weekly stamp contribution.

British people were given medical cards and placed on their GPs panel, which meant that they could visit their family doctor without the concern of paying for treatment.

Ongoing Hard Times for poor people

However, there was little in the way of other benefits for unemployed people who had to go in front of the National Assistance Board (NAB), when seeking financial help if or when unemployed or having no income.

At that time, it was a humiliating and degrading experience for anyone unfortunate to attend this panel of people who had the authority to decide whether or not people were allowed any financial support to keep their home and feed their families.

The National Assistance Board was a throwback to the time of the means test, where a government official would visit the family home to assess their means.

This would invariably result in people being instructed to sell furniture, personal jewellery and family heirlooms first before receiving any state financial support.


Article submitted by Spring Heeled Jack.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not the Digital Sentinel.

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