Welfare UK Style


This week on Facebook: The UK 2010 State of the nation¹ reported on poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the UK that: “Over the past 10 years we have seen more and more money spent on the benefits system in an attempt to move people from below the 60% poverty threshold to above it. Expenditure on child-related benefits alone has almost doubled. Yet despite this expenditure, the figures in this document show that this approach is failing.

Income inequality is at its highest since records began; millions of people are simply parked on benefits with little hope of ever progressing into work. high levels of family breakdown, educational failure, addiction and health inequality are having a severe impact on outcomes for both adults and children.” [sic¹]

A nation’s social welfare programme is a complex issue, used by politicians as a cause célèbre, seeking to raise votes from an unwitting electorate and to further their careers with political parties. This programme is used by politicians and their support in news media and on social media, to blame others for its inadequate funding and the consequential effects. This, despite politicians financing every budget by deficit spending. What every political party lacks — and will always lack — is any solution to the funding required for a social welfare programme that meets every societal demand.

Social welfare program: any of a variety of governmental programs designed to protect citizens from the economic risks and insecurities of life. The most common types of programs provide benefits to the elderly or retired, the sick or invalid, dependent survivors, mothers, the unemployed, the work-injured, and families. Methods of financing and administration and the scope of coverage and benefits vary widely among countries. Britannica — Social welfare program

A social welfare programme is now an integral fiscal policy of most developed countries, with the ever increasing fiscal demands made by it consuming a greater percentage of economic growth. This is particularly true in the EU and while there is no such thing as the European welfare state a social welfare programme is European in origin.

The EU accounts for just 7% of the world’s population and a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP) but as much as half of its welfare spending. Can EU countries still afford their welfare states?

The above remarks, attributed to Angela Merkel, are that Europe spends too much on social policies. Indirectly it is supported by State spending on a social welfare programme that has its ratio of welfare to GDP as an indication of trends in its economic growth. The UK cut the amount it spends on what Eurostat calls social protection (as a proportion of GDP) between 2011 and 2014 from 29.1% to 27.4%.

The welfare state concept of government in which the state or a well-established network of social institutions plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organisation. Britannica — Welfare State

Public support for welfare spending has been in long-term decline² and the UK 2010 State of the Nation report is unlikely to have been widely read, in any event Brexit and the 2019 general election had more influence on public opinion. Public opinion is more likely to support the view that welfare in UK offers a free ride, as reported in the article Living On Welfare In the U.K. or draw their conclusions from the YouTube video Why Work. Austerity measures are used by politicians to increase, or at least the appearance of, the maintenance by their public administration of a Social Welfare Programme.

Austerity measures can in principle be used at any time when there is concern about government expenditures exceeding government revenues. Often, however, governments delay resorting to such measures because they are usually politically unpopular. Instead, governments tend to rely on other means—for example, deficit financing, which involves borrowing from financial markets—to mitigate budget deficits in the short run, a decision that usually necessitates the adoption of harsher austerity measures in the long run. Britannica — Austerity Measures

The expenditure on welfare in the UK shows how politicians constantly misuse, mislead and quite deliberately misinform public opinion over their actual intentions regarding any social welfare programme³.

Millions of pensioners, workers and their employers have no idea that their National Insurance Contributions being used to balance the government’s books. The National Insurance Fund —  2014


1. How did we get to this welfare state? We think of the welfare state as a creation of the 20th Century but its roots stretch back to Elizabethan times. It’s a history littered with benefit crackdowns, panics about “scroungers” and public outrage at the condition of the poor.

2. How Britain’s welfare state has been taken over by shadowy tech consultants: The pioneering postwar British welfare state is rapidly being replaced by what we term a “digital welfare state”. This is presented by the government as an apolitical and technocratic fix aimed at making government more efficient and cost-effective. But in some respects it is also a politicised effort to undermine the social rights of the poorest members of British society, while making it ever more difficult to legally challenge adverse decisions.

3. No expectations? In a scathing UN report on poverty in the UK, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said one-fifth of the UK’s population was living in poverty.…

4. The current welfare state is reaching its limits: It seems that the UK, the 5th world economy in terms of GDP, drags on the 55th position as far as inequality is concerned, in a list of 160 countries (Gini coefficient measurements from the year 2000 onward, mostly). Although many  speak of poverty as a crucial challenge in the UK, government ministers consider that “things are going well”, in an obvious attitude of denial.

5. The changing face of welfare: Over the last 20 years the amount spent on welfare payments has generally increased. However, it has levelled off over the last five years and is projected to remain roughly the same through to 2020/21.


Referenced Articles Books & Definitions:

  • A bold text subscript¹ above and preceding the title here, is to a link (url) that is usually free.
  • Non-bold superscripts are links (urls) to the intended context of definitions↔¹·¹.
  • Brackets containing a number e.g. (1) reference a particular article (1-5).
  • A long read url* (especially below) is followed by an asterisk.
  • Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
  • JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.

¹State of the nation report — poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the UK (pdf): This report sets out a comprehensive assessment of poverty in the UK at the start of the new Government, establishing a clear ‘state of the nation’ overview that will be used to inform policy decisions in the months and years ahead as the Government advances its aims of tackling poverty and improving life chances.

²Benefits and Welfare (pdf): The last five years have seen, at most, a very small reversal of the long-term decline in support for welfare spending. When it comes to extra spending on benefits, the public is far more likely to prioritise pensions and benefits for disabled people, and far less likely to prioritise spending on benefits for single parents or unemployed people. Since 2010, those who identify with the Labour Party have become more supportive of spending more on welfare and more sympathetic to the unemployed, while the views of Conservatives have changed less or not at all.

³Poverty and Social Exclusion (url/pdf/book): In Poverty in the United Kingdom (1979) Peter Townsend examined relative deprivation covering a wide range of aspects of living standards, both material and social. He found that there were levels of income below which consumption and participation fell well below what might be seen as normal or acceptable in an increasingly affluent society and argued that this group should be seen to be in poverty.

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