Beveridge claimed that ‘want’ was ‘in some ways the easiest [giant] to attack’ and yet 80 years after his report was published, poverty persists and indeed, has been increasing in recent years. In this article, we review both the key features of the Beveridge Report in relation to poverty and its implementation by the Labour government 1945–51, before turning to an analysis of how social security policy has changed since then. We then review changes in poverty levels since World War Two and attitudes to poverty. We conclude that Beveridge’s plan helped to reduce poverty in the immediate post-war years not least because of full employment. Nevertheless, poverty was not eradicated even at this time due to low levels of wages in work and low levels of benefits out of work. Since then, a number of reforms have generally moved further away from the Beveridge plan including a renewed focus on means testing and cuts in benefit levels. These have also contributed to increased levels of poverty, particularly for those of working age in recent years.
University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research
Prof Steve McKay, University of Lincoln, School of Social and Political Sciences
Karen Rowlingson, University of Birmingham, Department of Social Policy