What he intended the welfare state to be was captured by a newspaper headline of 1942: “Beveridge tells how to banish want. Cradle to grave plan. All pay – all benefit.”
People were promised a revolution under which “every citizen willing to serve according to his powers has at all times an income sufficient to meet his responsibilities”. But what started off as a safeguard to look after people who had fallen on hard times has grown beyond recognition.
Under the last Labour administration a burgeoning new class emerged, the feckless underclass.
But now they have been re-categorised for fear of stigmatising them, as “troubled” families rather than problem ones. Mothers like Heather Frost have been given a lifestyle choice rather than a safety net.
Labour’s support of the system and the “poverty industry” which leads the debate on welfare reform in this country encouraged people such as her to live off benefits paid for by the taxpayers of Britain.
Yet she will be rewarded by the taxpayers and be given a six-bedroom house and an income of £45,000 a year. Most people have to earn £70,000 to take home £45,000 and even on that income they would not be able to afford a six-bedroom house.
An even more extreme example is that of Karen Matthews who kidnapped her own daughter in West Yorkshire. She had seven children by five different fathers and had barely done a day’s work in her life.
For decades, the highly political anti-poverty industry has led the debate on the definition of poverty and has allowed such families as this to proliferate.
These campaigners are narrowly focused on eradicating poverty by increasing benefits and expanding social services.
They elevate the protection of benefits and the recipients’ right not to work above the common sense argument that work equals empowerment.
They think that something needs to be done for the poor, not with the poor. That’s the old argument: it doesn’t work.
Labour led us into and entrenched this situation. It created a “something for nothing” culture that penalised people who wanted to work by making it economically not worth their while to do so. A whole generation has grown up believing that to claim from the welfare state is their right, not a safety harness for those who fall on hard times.
We have to get to grips with these families but how do we do it?
First, we must ignore the pleas and cries of those in the poverty industry – all those politicised lobbyists who make most politicians quake in their boots.
We then need to introduce a new welfare state that helps people for a limited period when they are in need, instead of introducing them to a permanent lifestyle on benefits.