Can a new Beveridge fix a broken welfare state?

John Harris is so right (What British politicians won’t admit – we need to transform the welfare state, 21 February). Can we start the debate with the future of work?

Daniel Suskind, in A World Without Work, advocates a payment that reflects how a nation’s social capital is the basic resource from which all else flows. All citizens contribute to the formation of this and all should be able to draw a regular dividend. The psychology needs to change from handouts to dividends as an earned return.

A citizens’ basic income would underpin future life with a portfolio of occupations, including, for example, some work in the market economy, some self-employment, the gig economy, volunteering, exchange and caring. If Covid-19 has taught us one thing, it is that nothing works without social capital.
Roger Read
Troon, Ayrshire

• I agree wholeheartedly with John Harris. However, I was disappointed that there was little mention of methods of creating employment. In the past, there were people who cleaned the streets and looked after municipal parks and gardens. On a visit to Japan, I was astounded at the number of people still employed serving the community.

I have a son with learning difficulties whose highlight of the week is helping a team of volunteers looking after flowerbeds and picking up litter. How much better it would be for him to be employed (as he was before austerity) rather than pocketing his personal independence payment etc, and having nothing to do for the rest of the week.
John Lawrence
Ulverston, Cumbria

• Those calling for a “new Beveridge” should be careful what they wish for. First, Beveridge’s social security proposals were a right-leaning liberal substitute for social democracy. He favoured levelling up the poor to a basic minimum standard, but not at the expense of any levelling down of the rich. Second, it was not Beveridge, but the Attlee government that created the modern welfare state. Socialist collectivism was the essential driver behind the NHS.

Despite this, the Beveridge report was important symbolically, as a rallying point. What is required now is not another expert report but a comprehensive, inclusive and co-produced examination of the current crises of inequality and how to overcome them – much like the fairness commissions that have sat at local level over the past decade.
Alan Walker
Professor of Social Policy, University of Sheffield

• People calling for a new Beveridge report need to be aware of the constructive accounting in the report’s appendix. In 1943 it estimated that the cost of the NHS to the exchequer in 1945 would be £170m. However, unlike the cost for social support, which was to increase, NHS expenditure in 1965 was forecast to be exactly the same. The seeds of the continual crises of the NHS stem from the Beveridge report itself.
Dr Ceri Brown
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

• Beveridge’s five “evil giants” still stalk the land, albeit in mutated forms. Any fresh approach will have to tackle them: want, with a revised and fairer benefit and social security system; disease, with an integrated national and local health and social care service; ignorance, with schools valuing occupational as much as academic skills; squalor, with housing for rent, not just for ownership; idleness, with training for work in an environmentally friendly economy.
Dr Colin Smith
West Kirby, Wirral


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