Illustration showing the main components of the Welfare State

The Welfare State impacted on health, housing and education

During the Second World War a committee, chaired by Sir William Beveridge, was set up to look into ways of improving the lives of the British public.

The Beveridge Report, 1942 recommended a government-run benefit system to help people from the 'cradle-to-grave'.

The benefits would be available to groups such as the unemployed, the sick, the retired and the widowed.

In addition to Beveridge's proposals, plans were drawn up to improve education, housing and working conditions and to create a national health service.

Workers would pay a compulsory weekly contribution to the state to finance the schemes.

These reforms created the Welfare State.

The Welfare State and the Labour Government, 1945-1949

In the general election in June 1945, the Labour Party won a landslide victory, partly because it had promised to tackle poverty.

Between 1945 and 1951 Clement Attlee, the Labour Prime Minister, and Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health, made significant changes to welfare in Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Welfare State was achieved even though the post-war period was a time of austerity.

Coal almost ran out and there was rationing of bread and potatoes, which had not been limited during the war.

To help secure its policies, the Labour government took control of important parts of the economy through the introduction of nationalisation.

It nationalised coal mines, railways, industries, electricity provision and the Bank of England.

Why was the Welfare State introduced?

The war and the Beveridge Report exposed widespread poverty amongst the working class.

Many people in Northern Ireland were living in slums with 35% of houses deemed unfit for occupation. Health problems were common and tuberculosis and polio were rife among the population.

The government wanted to ensure a minimum standard of living for everyone.