In 1942 life expectancy at birth was 66 for women and 60 for men. Death was usually due to degenerative and infectious diseases. The greatest postwar success in the fight against disease was the establishment of the NHS and care that was free at the point of delivery.
Poverty in modern-day Britain looks different to the form it took in Beveridge’s day but it has not disappeared. For 14 million people across the UK the lack of access to the goods and services necessary to live a decent life and to participate fully in society remains a grim reality. Despite rising standards of living, social and economic structures continue to trap those at the bottom in constant job insecurity, ill-health, overcrowded housing and educational disadvantage.
Helen Barnard considers what it might take to finally slay the giant of poverty in Britain. She examines how we might build a fairer, more equal society, and what a modern welfare state should aim to achieve, including an honest appraisal of the trade-offs and choices involved in creating it.