‘Humane and generous’ UK welfare state still feasible

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A new book by Peter Taylor-Gooby, Professor of Social Policy at the University of Kent, suggests that the UK can still afford an ‘inclusive, humane and generous’ welfare state and high quality public services.
In his book, titled The Double Crisis of the Welfare State and What We Can Do About It, Professor Taylor-Gooby provides an up-to-date analysis of the welfare state cut-backs and public service restructuring put in place by the Coalition government.
He analyses the immediate challenges faced by those he says are bearing the brunt of the welfare cuts, such as women, families and the poor. He also considers the effects of the restructuring on public services, which he says will lead to ‘fragmentation and privatisation’.
Professor Taylor-Gooby argues it is both economically and politically feasible for the UK to maintain unpopular, minority welfare services such as benefits and social housing, and mass services which retain public support, such as health, education and pensions.
He said: ‘The claim that health care, education and pensions are unsustainable is based on long-term spending projections. However, this is misleading. Past experience under both Conservative and Labour governments shows that people are willing to provide the finance necessary to maintain these services.
‘In fact, the extra amounts required during the next half-century are rather less than the increase in spending sustained during the past three decades. They are also substantially smaller than what will be required in other large European countries.
‘Mass services – the NHS, education and pensions – are popular. Benefits for the poor are not. Reforms which focus on child poverty, contributory welfare and poverty-level wages are more likely to be politically acceptable.’
Professor Taylor-Gooby added that the target of ending child poverty is attainable within a decade, but that ‘it needs political commitment and determination to improve wages at the bottom, improve benefits and cut the cost of child care so more mothers can work.’
He said: ‘An inclusive, humane and generous welfare state is feasible, politically and economically. But it requires commitment and political leadership.’
The Double Crisis of the Welfare State and What We Can Do About It is published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby, FBA, OBE is a member of the University’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.

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