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IS THE BRITISH WELFARE STATE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANY CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL PROBLEMS?
The idea of a welfare state can be taken to have different meaning depending on the way it is applied. The welfare state in all countries is however supposed to meet some basic objectives or needs of a state and therefore takes care of the welfare of all the members. There are some basic ideas that pertains the formation of any welfare state. The welfare state is taken as the ideal model of provision of comprehensive and universal welfare for the citizens which means the state is responsible for the needs of its citizens. Another idea on a welfare state is the concept of the welfare that is provided by the state, for example, in the USA. Welfare state takes also an idea of the social protection that is delivered by the state. In this case protection is provided by a combination of independent and voluntary government services.
This paper will look closely that the welfare state in British and look into how it has strived to address some of the contemporary issue that continue to be a burden to the society. (Deacon 2002, p. 71)
British Welfare state
British social welfare date back to many years ago when the Beveridge Report of 1942 proposed for the formation of a National Insurance that would help to address the needs of the oppressed and the most poor in the state. In particular it was to look at family allowance, National Health Service and full employment. This was followed by the enactment of 1946 National Insurance Act, National Health Service Act of 1946 and the 1948 National Assistance Act which abolished the Poor Law and made some provisions for welfare services. The welfare state after 1948 was aimed at addressing some issues like social security, health, housing, education, and welfare of children. British welfare state is based on three main principal elements. They include:
A guarantee of minimum standard
The welfare state ensures that there are minimum standards that the citizens can have or are guaranteed to have. This is in order to ensure that there is social equality among all the citizens of the state. These minimum standards include even minimum income for all people. This is in order to ensure that all the citizens are ensured of at least the lowest living standards that they can live under in the society. As a part of the society, this principle is meant to ensure that there are not individuals who are live a high standard of life while there are others in the same society who lives in deplorable state.
This is an element which is aimed at giving sense of security to all the people in the society. This is meant to ensure that all individual living in the society have a sense of security as pertain to various issue in the society. It is also means to avoid the exploitation of individual in the society in the sense that the rich can exploit the poor. Therefore social protection in this context goes beyond providing security to all people but also protecting individual and especially the children. In this regard this element takes a more broad approach and considers everyone as their brother’s keeper. (Kaplan 2007, p. 15)
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Providing services at the best level
As welfare state, it has a responsibility of providing basic services to its citizens. This means that the state has the duty of seeing that all those living in the county have access to basic services that they need for their survival. This element states that the role of the state doesn’t not end in provision of these services but it extend to provision of the services in a more equitable manner. The services have to be availed to all the citizens and provided in the best way possible. In other worlds, it means that the state has the duty of serving the citizens rather than the citizens serving the state.
These are the three elements that characterize the British welfare state. These principles define the role of the state and the duty that the state has toward its citizens. The British Welfare state has been identified in its practice with the “institutional” model of welfare. The key elements in the social welfare of the state include social protection and the provision of welfare service to the citizens on the bases of ensuring that there is observance of individual rights. (Murray1996, p. 72)
But unlike what has been highlight above, the social welfare in the UK is not implemented on the bases of the three principles. The coverage of the welfare is very extensive but on the other hand the benefits and the services are delivered at a low level. This means that it is not all those who are target who get the right services or who benefit from the coverage of the service. The social protection principle is very patchy and the services that are provided are very much rationed.
As such the welfare state in Britain may have succeeded in coming up with a very comprehensive social welfare policy but it is one thing to come up with such a policy and another thing to make it work altogether. From the above analysis we have seen that though the coverage of the state is quite large, the deliver of service is not well covered and the benefits are not felt by many people. Then could it be the weakness in the delivery of the three principles could be attributed to many of the contemporary issues that the state is facing currently
British Welfare state and contemporary issues
Currently there are many issues that have been highlighted in the British welfare state which can be directly attributed to the failure of the state. This has been due to failure by the state to put in place policies that address the needs of the citizens appropriately. As a result, there has been changing perspectives of the role of the state on its citizens and the capitalist approach has encroached in the society. Slowly, the welfare state has been turning to a man eat man society though many of us are unwilling to accept this concept as we consider ourselves right as compared to others.
But there is a general concession from all the citizens that there are contemporary issue that were not there before that have suddenly surged into our society. Though there are other issues that can be attributed to this, the overall cause of these has been the failure by the state to address the needs of its citizens well. The tide of globalization has come up with many changes in the society like the change in our culture and our traditions but the fact remains that these issues have come to and the state should not take it as wave that will eventually end. There should have been systematic efforts aimed at addressing some of these issues. For example, some of the issue like teenage pregnancy has been caused by the breakdown of our culture and the mix up with the outside culture. (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p. 142)
However, we cannot attribute this to the wave of globalization alone as there are other factors at the interplay. For example, if the state realizes the change in our culture, what has it done to prevent the occurrence of such issues? Are there strict laws that have been drafted that try to address the issue? And most of all can the state look at the patter of these occurrences and try to address the root cause? It has been shown that the rate of teenage pregnancy is quite high in low income areas than in high income areas. Has the state done anything to address such an inequality?
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These are some of the questions every time we point at a particular contemporary issue that the society is facing. There are so many questions that the state ought to have addressed but which it has not. The first important way to address this issue it to first find the root causes of the contemporary problems that we are facing.
One of the root causes of the problems that we are facing is inequality in the society. This inequality is not vested only in the level of income of the citizens but also in the way the citizen access resource from the government. It all goes back to the issue of political representation in the country. Our political system has it that most of the regions which are not well represented political do not access resources the same way as other areas. Most of the areas which are inhabited by people not of original British results are usually not well represented in the political arena. Therefore those areas do not receive services the same way as other areas. (Lavalette and Pratt 2003, p. 9)
One of the areas that have witnessed most inequalities is the health sector. There have been many studies which have shown inequalities in the way the British citizens have access to health services. The Black Report was especially crucial in highlighting how the state has failed to address the health needs of the citizens. This report and others gave an account of how those areas which are politically represented in the government have access to health services while those coming from areas which are not politically well represented have problems accessing health services. Therefore the evidenced difference in health care can be directly attributed to demographic inequality in the provision of health service. This is likely to have a lot of implications on the citizens since it will affect the heath status of the citizens.
Therefore there are many other ways in which social welfare of the state has failed to address the needs of the citizens. This has led to a massive inequality in the way the public have access to services. Lack of these basic services can be attribu4ed to a number of issues that are facing the modern society. For example there is a close association between economic inequality and the rate of crime. In this regard there has been increased rates of crime in the low income regions that in the high income regions. It has become difficult for the welfare state to address the needs of those coming from low income areas and therefore they have resulted to criminal activities. Instead of the state moving to address the root cause of increased crimes in these areas, it concentrates more on putting in place measures that ensure that those who are convicted of crimes are held in jails. In case they were the bread winners of their families, the cycle continuous as their wives and their children are caught in the same trap of crime. (Wilson 1990, p. 62)
Therefore we can say that the failure by the British welfare society to address the needs of its citizens can be directly attributed to be the root cause of many social issues that the country is facing right now. One of the root causes of all the contemporary issue has been the failure by the state to address the high rates of inequalities in the society. This inequality has apparently been the cause of many other problems that the society is facing right now.
Deacon, A. (2002). Perspectives on Welfare. Buckinghamshire, UP.
Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M. (2004). Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. London: Collins.
Lavalette, M. & Pratt, A. (2003). Social Policy: A Conceptual and Theoretical Introduction. London: Sage.
Murray, C. (1996). Charles Murray and the Underclass, London: IEA Health and Welfare Unit
Wilson, W. J. (1990). The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, The Underclass and the Public Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Kaplan, G. (2007). Health Inequalities and the Welfare state. University of Michigan
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