Not for Patching

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In his famous report of 1942, the economist and social reformer William Beveridgewrote that the war was a ‘revolutionary moment in the world’s history’ and so a time ‘forrevolutions, not for patching.’ The Beveridge Report outlined the welfare state that Attlee’sgovernment would go on to implement after 1946, instituting, for the first time, a nationalsystem of benefits to protect all from ‘cradle to the grave.’ Since then the welfare system hasbeen patched, beset by muddled thinking and short-termism. The government spends overGBP171bn a year on welfare and yet, since the Beveridge Report, there has been no strategicreview of the system. Compare that to Defence which, with its comparatively small budgetof GBP35bn, is subject to a strategic review at least every decade. Reform of the welfare systemneed not mean dismantlement, but serious questions must be asked about how a welfarestate as we understand it remains sustainable into the 21st century.