Framework for renewing the welfare state

A revitalised system of social protection is needed that builds on the original post-war consensus, according to the Compass think tank. It has published a briefing sketching out the principles underlying a renewed social security system – as an alternative, it argues, to the one being created by coalition government policies.

Key points

  • The fundamental choice is between (on the one hand) a return to a pre-1945, or even pre-1906, society based on a division between the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor and (on the other) a renewed system of provision that builds on the 1945 consensus to offer social security to all.
  • The emphasis in social provision should be shifted away from the individual and towards the role of social networks – enabling people support one another, and to create new and redesigned services on a human and local scale. Officials and professionals should treat all service users with dignity and respect and listen to their views, recognising their capabilities as well as their needs.
  • Universalism is essential to a renewed welfare state: it reduces stigma, ensures proper take-up, is more efficient to deliver, promotes gender equality, binds everyone into a progressive tax system, and ensures the 'sharp elbows' of the middle classes improve services for the wider benefit. The coalition's so-called 'universal' credit is not universal at all, but instead cements means-testing into the foundations of the social security system.
  • Language is vital. The term 'welfare' has become contaminated by its association with a US-style residual poor relief for people of working age. There is a need to reclaim the phrase 'social security' to represent a key goal – the creation of a society that provides security.
  • Social security cannot be tackled in isolation. The reform of the welfare state also requires changes to housing, health, pensions and education policy. There is a need to deal with the causes and not just the symptoms of social and economic insecurity.

SourceSocial Security for All: The Renewal of the Welfare State, Compass
LinksBriefing | Compass press release