War and Welfare in the 1940s

  • Derek Fraser


If the essential theme of the 1930s had been selectivity, that of the 1940s was universalism. That specious universalism which in 1931 had required the unemployed to share in the national sacrifice by a 10 per cent cut in income did not hide the fact that society and social policy were riddled with arbitrary distinctions and selective treatment. Just as unemployment was uneven in its impact, making it an experience depressingly familiar to specific regions and industries, so too the evolving services were uneven in coverage. Accidents of classification vitally affected the nature and scope of the services available. Insured workers were covered for unemployment, sickness, medical, old age, widows’ and orphans’ benefits, non-insured workers were not; insured workers had free access to a doctor, their families did not; a sick man received less financial aid during his incapacity for work than one who was unemployed; the unemployed were selectively treated, for twenty-six weeks by the insurance scheme, then by the U.A.B., but a minority of 40,000 able-bodied men who were technically not normally in insurable occupations were left with the Poor Law; non-contributory pensioners over seventy were subjected to a means test, contributory pensioners were not. Common social conditions did not produce common social security benefits as classification and technical qualifications had usurped need as the determining factor.


Local Authority National Health Service Emergency Medical Service Insurance Scheme National Assistance 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    W. H. Beveridge, The Pillars of Security (1943) pp. 107–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Economist I May 1943, quoted by R. M. Titmuss, Problems of Social Policy (1950) p. 516.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    A. Briggs, Social Thought and Social Action: A Study of the Work of Seebohm Rowntree (1961) p. 303.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    W. H. Beveridge, Social Insurance and Allied Services (1942) p. 17.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Quoted by V. George, Social Security (1968) p. 42.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    W. S. Churchill, The Second World War, IV (1954) p. 861.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    J. Beveridge, Beveridge and His Plan (1954) p. 146.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Hugh Dalton’s Diary, 23 Oct 1943, quoted by H. Felling, Britain and the Second World War (1970) p. 182.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    A. Calder, The People’s War (1969) p. 540.Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    A. Howard, ‘We Are the Masters Now’, in M. Sissons and P. French (eds.), The Age of Austerity (1963) p. 16.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    D. C. Marsh, National Insurance and Assistance in Great Britain (1950) pp. 110–11.Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    See for example Robson, Social Security and H. Levy, National Health Insurance: A Critical Study (1944).Google Scholar
  13. 29.
    A. Bevan, In Place of Fear (1952) p. 100.Google Scholar
  14. 31.
    Quoted by A. Lindsey, Socialised Medicine in England and Wales ( Chapel Hill, N.C., 1962 ) p. 59.Google Scholar
  15. 33.
    M. Bruce, The Coming of the Welfare State (1968) p. 326; Pelling, Britain and the Second World War, p. 297.Google Scholar
  16. 36.
    R. M. Titmuss, Commitment to Welfare (1968) p. 124.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Derek Fraser 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek Fraser
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BradfordUK

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