In 1942 British Economist William Beveridge published what is known as the ‘Beveridge Report’ detailing the state of poverty in Britain, in which he identified ‘five giants’: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. His findings showed that in the UK many people in Britain were living in a state of Absolute Poverty.
The Beveridge report pushed forward and advocated many benefits and created the world’s first social welfare state for centuries. In fact the original was the Bayt al-Mal (House of Wealth) which was established in the 7th Century by the Caliph of the Arabs Umar Ibn Khattab. Today we live in a society where the five giants are almost eradicated, but there are still signs of some of them in Britain.
By ‘Want’, Beveridge meant having a lack of income or not earning enough. The first instance of a state welfare system setup to combat this was by Umar Ibn Khattab who introduced a form of incapacity benefit which included an allowance for those too old or ill to work. He also established the first child benefit, and history records that Umar used to dress in rags and walk amongst the people without them knowing who he was. At first he had made the child benefit for children whose mother was weaning their child from breast milk. However, on one of his travels he came across a mother whose child wouldn’t stop crying. When he challenged her as to why her child wouldn’t stop crying she replied that Umar had introduced this allowance, and that she was trying to wean her child off of breast milk for she needed the allowance. The next day it is said that Umar cried so much whilst praying that noone could make out his words, he then got up and asked himself in front of his subjects “How many people have died because of this rule you have made”.
After this incident Umar changed the law so that every child would be entitled to receive the allowance.
Today in Britain we have Jobseeker’s Allowance, which allows every citizen who is without a job a small fortnightly allowance.
The current government has declared war on the poor and most vulnerable within our society. They are currently trying to kick as many people as possible off of benefits, using the excuse that many of them are benefit fraudsters and that with the economic crisis currently gripping Britain it is necessary to do so.
Benefits today may be part of a welfare state, but private companies like the French corporation ATOS are hired by the government to run many of these services. We have to remember that Jobseekers Allowance is a tiny amount of money and is hardly enough to afford the basic necessities such as food, clothes and soaps. In fact it is a farce that the government can’t afford to keep benefits running, as they spend far more on buying weapons from their rich friends’ armoury companies.
Those living on the street and therefore unable to provide an address, struggle to obtain benefits, as the Jobcentre will ask for an address before they give you benefit. Therefore you could say that the homeless and many more who are kicked off of benefits are still living within Beveridge’s description of ‘Want’.
By ‘Disease’ Beveridge meant not having the medicine needed when you are ill. In the UK we have a National Health Service, in which we have free medical care paid for by the state. Britain was the first country to have such a service, since Umar Ibn Khattab created the law which meant the state was responsible for providing the medicine and care for sufferers of leprousy.
Cuba, which is still considered a developing country, is believed to have a better National Health Service than most developed countries. According to Al Jazeera: “Despite its scarce resources, Cuba has one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates – just slightly lower than that of the US. Life expectancy is 77.5 years, one of the world’s highest. And until not so long ago, there was one doctor for every 170 citizens – the highest patient-per-doctor ratio in the world.” Cuba also sends doctors around the world which prompted former president Fidel Castro to say that during war other countries send troops to intervene whilst Cuba sends doctors to help both sides.
Barack Obama passed a bill in 2010 to introduce a very simple and primitive version of the NHS in the US, which has been heavily criticized by the right wingers there, who have accused Obama of being a Communist. In the NHS everyone is entitled to free healthcare and therefore Disease is no longer an issue of poverty, except in extreme cases where medicine is too expensive for the NHS. In such cases there are still private healthcare companies available to those who can afford it.
Now however the contracts to run the NHS departments are handed out to private companies such as ATOS and Virgincare and soon Richard Branson will become the face of the NHS. This is a dangerous system, and the governments argument that competition is a better motive than caring for peoples well-being is ridiculous. When a healthcare system is more concerned with profits and is only concerned with a patients well being when it is profitable, it creates the sort of environment that is not acceptable within an area that deals with health, life and death.
Beveridge’s measurement of Disease can still be used to describe much of the poor living within the UK.
‘Ignorance’ is a referral to lack of education. In Britain every child is entitled to free education and it is in fact compulsory that they attend schools; otherwise their parents could face legal action. Nevertheless, the level of education in a state school is usually not up to the standards of a private school, where parents pay fees in order for their children to have a better education.
Figures from 2012 showed that in the UK private school students are three times more likely to score straight A’s at A-Level than state school students. Therefore, although all children in the UK are entitled to education, there is still an unbalanced system between rich and poor.
Today even the state schools are threatened by privatisation, with a new form of schooling being brought in by the government known as ‘Free Schools’. These schools will be funded by the state, but run by organizations and individuals separate from the state. The schools are not allowed to make a profit and therefore are supposedly free from companies who only want to earn profits rather than care about education.
However, these schools are now free to hire private companies, owned by their friends, to supply the materials and to find staff. Therefore free schools are but a scam, and just like the privatisation of the NHS, we are keeping the free service, it’ll just be run by money grabbing companies rather than the state.
‘Squalor’ refers to housing. The UK has a system whereby the council owns many properties and lets people unable to buy or rent a property, rent one cheaply. Due to the fact there are not enough council houses available, the state will pay for much of your rent, should you find a private flat or house. This is called ‘Housing Benefit’.
But there are other ideas on what a socialist housing system would entail. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi stated in his manifesto ‘The Green Book’: “A person in another person’s house in return for rent, or even without rent, is not a free person… In a socialist society, it is inadmissible for anyone to control the needs of a human being, not even society itself.”
Libya believed that everyone had the right to own their own house, but were not entitled to more than one house as this would cause people to rent flats off other people. After marriage the state paid for your first house or apartment.
In Britain a council house may be looked after better by the state than the landlord, the state’s aim is to “look after it’s people” whilst a private landlord’s aim is to make money.
Despite there being both council housing and housing benefit in the UK homelessness has risen from 2009 and 2010 by 42%. UK figures for homelessness refer to those without a fixed address and most homeless people still have somewhere to sleep due to friends, families or shelters.
The amount of people sleeping rough in the UK in 2009 was 1,247, that figure rose to 1,768 in 2010.
Certain areas in London are facing a crisis known as gentrification. Local family run businesses are being replaced by corporate shops who target the middle classes. The prices are too high for the working class residents who occupied the neighbourhood before, whilst companies are knocking down council estates and replacing them with private estates.
The richer boroughs such as Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster are sending many of their council tenants to poorer boroughs like Haringey, who in turn are sending their poorer residents out of London, whilst being replaced by middle class residents from outside of London.
The fact that there is homelessness in the 21st Century in one of the nations which controls the world’s resources is utterly unacceptable, especially when we hear stories such as that of the Saudi prince who bought a mansion on Bishops Avenue, the most expensive road in London and then bought the mansion next door because he didn’t like having neighbours.
‘Idleness’ refers to unemployment. Under the current climate this is a particularly pressing issue, especially as youth unemployment has risen steadily under the latest government. In the UK 20.2% of young people under 25 who are old enough to work are unemployed. This is very high when compared to Germany where it is 8.1%, but low compared to Greece where it is 57.6%.
This is very worrying to see and shows that in the UK this is still very much an issue. In the former Soviet Union everyone was given jobs by the state. The state took the responsibility of giving every school leaver a job in a field that suited them.
This showed that in the same way people expect the state in UK to fulfill their perceived rights to have food, shelter, medicine and education, in the Soviet Union the same was expected in regards to employment and the Idleness factor.
The fact that today the government is cutting public sectors jobs while unemployment is growing, whilst at the same time kicking people off of Jobseekers Allowance, is putting people in an impossible position. People are starving today. One factor we have to take into account when thinking of the current crisis, was Margret Thatchers war against the Trade unions, in which she intentionally caused mass unemployment so that when people went on strike she could force workers to replace them. It was a matter of keeping working people fighting each other over jobs, rather than fighting together against the government for jobs.
The lack of these five necessities is something we should expect to be eradicated by the state. The fact that these are not fully nationalised in the 21st Century is not an acceptable scenario. The problem may lay in having a government full of those born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
Umar Ibn Khattab, the man responsible for the first welfare state, became the most powerful man in the world, ruling over the largest nation in the world at that time. Yet he owned one pair of rags which he would patch up himself and lived in a mud hut. He would walk amongst his people unrecognised to find out what ailed them and believed any suffering that occurred in his nation was his responsibility. How do we get leaders like this, when almost all our modern leaders, not just in the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but in Labour as well, are opportunists, who know nothing about suffering.
Where is our Hugo Chavez, who grew up in the slums and never forgot what it was like to suffer? Labour MP Dennis Skinner said during his speech about Prime Ministers Questions being cancelled out of respect for the death Margaret Thatcher:
“Its all about class and we should never forget that, when we’re here we should never forget where we come from and I remember those people, I remember my own family, 9 kids hadn’t got 2 eightbits to rub together, it’s still embedded in my soul and that’s why I speak as I do, I don’t want to change and never will. It won’t get my hands on the dispatch box, but that’s not a luxury that’s ever bothered me. It’s important to remember that these words don’t come out of my mouth because of envy, because of greed, it’s because I believe that we have to look after those people who haven’t got 2 eightbits to rub together, that should be what motivates us every day of the week, including prime ministers question time and when the Labour Party understands that like we do here today it’ll be better for it”
Unfortunately it has become obvious that the Labour Party is too far gone to ever return to its roots and the time has come for working people to create or find new alternatives to the Capitalist Parties.