The Welfare State is in danger, this present government thinks it is too expensive, it should be sold off to the private sector, (as is happening surreptitiously ).  I was ten years old when the welfare state began in its post Second World War development.  In addition to family allowances and sickness benefit, the biggest benefit was the setting up of the National Health Service, free at the point of need to every member of the population.  The previous system  of voluntary hospitals  and Workhouse Infirmaries were totally inadequate to cope with demands in the late 1940s.  Aneurin  Bevan, the Minister of Health from the Welsh valleys called it,

“The biggest single experiment in social services that has ever been undertaken.”  7th October 1948

The remuneration of the doctors proved difficult, they did not want to be a salaried profession.  Agreement was finally reached on 18th June seventeen days before the appointed day.  A last minute acceptance by the BMA that they would be part of the NHS.

   If present  plans go ahead many people; the disabled, the long term sick, poor children and large numbers of the elderly will find themselves outside the free National Health Service for the first time in 68 years.  The facts are objective, my own view is very subjective.

The  Welfare State has been in the background, sometimes in the foreground for most of my life.  I owe my free grammar school place and free college education to the 11+ and to the idea that some poor children deserved a good education and all deserved free secondary school to the age of fifteen. This came about when the 1944 Education Act was passed, it was referred to as the Butler Education Act.

Presently the NHS is in the foreground,  and my husband is now at home recovering from a major heart operation.  At no stage was money asked for, the treatment was free at the point of need.  We have lost sight of the fact that paying for the NHS out of taxation is the fairest way, not only the fairest but in fact the most efficient, cost effective way of providing a service which everyone can use whether they are poor or super-rich.  If the super-rich think they are outside this system, they could not be more wrong.  The hospitals are built, paid for and run on taxpayers money.  The doctors , the nurses, the radiographers, the surgeons, all the medical staff  are trained and payed by taxpayers, likewise all the equipment, the drugs, the beds and the cleaning.

    The Welfare  State is not just of benefit to the poor; it benefits the working poor, all the degrees of the middling sort and the super-rich.  In fact the whole country is able to prosper and adapt to the ever changing circumstances we find ourselves in.  Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Finland have all found  that being  fair and equitable  to all their citizens results in a prosperous, peaceful society.  In Britain after 1945 we made some progress in this direction but since the 1980s the idea has been pushed aside.  Some erroneous idea  that market forces must be allowed complete freedom to pay low wages and give back to the rich more of the surplus wealth that working people have created for them.  The countries  where the extremely rich control the politicians are exceedingly harsh places to live where no-one has security  and a peaceful life.  Those are the countries where the young and fit are desperate to leave.

When  young and healthy it is tempting to think this will always be the same alas we none of us know what tomorrow will bring; an accident, a serious illness, the illness of someone we love. For most of us life has in store the unexpected and the devastating, the old age brings with it a catalogue of aches and pains, crumbling bones, painful joints, the failure of heart and lungs and we expect help to be at hand. Very often it is. In the last thirty years a misunderstanding has been encouraged that even a prosperous peaceful country  such as the UK cannot afford to pay for the Welfare State.  This is dangerous rubbish. Yes some taxes would have to increase but some of the exceedingly rich think that burying their huge wealth in a secret bank account will protect them.  More rubbish! A peaceful, fair equitable society where ‘at the point of need’ everyone receives the care, education and support they need has fewer criminals and we know that prisons are the most expensive social care available with a dreadful record or returning young men and women to a life of crime. Now that is an expensive business.

There is plenty of evidence that British society has become increasingly more unequal very like it was in the 1920s and we all know what that led to, 1929 ring a bell?



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