Exam Question: How effective was the Welfare State of 1945-51?

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Exam Question: How effective was the Welfare State of 1945-51?

The Labour government of 1945 aimed to support people ‘from the cradle to the grave’. This meant that the government aimed to support everyone at all parts of their lives. However many of the areas they worked on were outlined in the Beveridge report: want, idleness, squalor, ignorance, disease. Beveridge was a Liberal who only wanted to create a safety net and not to do everything for everyone. This essay will argue that actually the Labour government was effective at creating a cradle- to the grave Welfare State even if there were some gaps.

Labour did not deal with ignorance effectively

1944 Education Act

For example they only built 250 secondary schools. 900 primaries, more university

This was successful because many more went to school due to compulsory secondary education. However since they only built 250 not everyone would have been able to go to one. Also it set up a separate system for rich and poor since most of the poor went to Secondary Moderns or Junior Secondaries and didn’t have good technical education.


Nationisations- health, coal, shipping, airways, buses

2.5% unemployed

NHS 1946

90% GPs- but had to pay them lots- 10% private still

Cost more than planned

The universal coverage was very successful, but because it was so expensive it soon became impossible to give everything for free- eg dentistry you had to pay for.

-200,000 houses- didn’t manage – 157,000 built prefabs


  • Rowntree poverty 36% down to 2%

  • Sickness benefits 3 months to 18 months

  • Pension still below poverty line

  • National Insurance Act---

  • National Assistance Act- for those who don’t pay insurance

  • Prices rose, so benefits not worth much – hated means test

How new was it? Did they achieve cradle to the grave...

Shifted from laissez faire

90 % of GPs against NHS.

Working class excluded from best education

Prescriptions 7 million a month Jan 1948, to 13.4 million in Sept

Labour did well given the conditions

Labour provided universal support (for everyone)

National Assistance Act 1948 Safety net for those who had no National Insurance.

Labour didn’t end want.

1948 welfare benefits 19% of average workers wage

Few technical schools built

National Assistance was means tested- so not a proper safety net

Consultants and hospitals allowed to keep private practise

Rowntree noted poverty in York down to 2% (36% in 1936)

Homelessness same as in 1931 (750,000)

5 million glasses, 8 m dentists visits in first year

Middle classes did best out of the NHS

157,000 prefabs built

£66 million paid to compensate doctors

Average floor area increased from 1930s to 1000 sq ft

“NHS failed to provide the general medical service available to the bulk of the population” (Webster)

90% of doctors joined NHS

By 1948 the 5 giants… were under attack” (Morrison)

Huge cost (£358 million)- 10% paid for by Insurance

Labour had to struggle- but only because a huge backlog of medical conditions had built up.

Labour were effective at building houses

Labour defeated ignorance by improving education.

Labour made huge progress against disease

Ran out of housing materials

Labour didn’t do enough to improve health

Britain lost 25% of national wealth during WWII

No housing ministry created

Labour failed to solve squalor

Labour helped workers injured or unemployed (idleness and disease)

National Insurance Acts 1946 : Work accidents now responsibility of employers and society as a whole.

Sickness benefits claimable after 156 contributions, and lasted up to 492 days.

Labour didn’t really create a welfare state

Education Act 1944 3 part system: Grammars, Technical , Modern schools

Free dental care quickly removed, fewer hospitals built than planned

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