Seventy years ago today. An economist called Beveridge who by all accounts had been making a pest of himself in government launched his vision for a new society. In the middle of wartime, he laid out the architecture of a new welfare state where people would be looked after from cradle to grave paid for by a national insurance contribution by all of working age.
In a time of austerity and uncertainty it captured the imagination of the public. People on the day of its publication were queing round the block to buy and read it. By February 1943 almost half a million people had bought it. I can’t imagine any green paper brought out by today would sell so well. People were eager for a new society and the promises of eradication of poverty and a society where we looked after everyone. As you know Beveridge’s utopia came to fruition in 1948 with the birth of the NHS and cradle to grave state support for all.
I felt the need to blog about this today after my friend and I encountered a Big Issue Seller in Glasgow yesterday. He was trying to sell his paper while people just walked past. My pal (attracted by the David Tennant front cover) brought a copy. The vendor apologised for the price it is three pounds in December but we commented that was okay as long as he had more money for Christmas. He then told us that the Big Issue now takes seventy percent of the cost and the vendor only receives. thirty percent before it was split fifty/fifty. I had been told by another vendor recently that the Big Issue are forcing vendors to wear a blue jacket and they are being charged fifty pounds for them. Social entreprenership at it’s best making poverty pay for the fat cats.
Poverty is now a new industry. With the continued dismantling of the welfare state. So called knights in shining armour are there to organise private companies which will pick up the slack and provide services for the poor and needy. Branson Health Care is on the horizon along with SERCO as the NHS is privitised. KERCHING lots of money to the chief executives and shareholders while the poor get poorer and become more vulnerable. Welfare to work providers are making huge amounts of profit by getting the unemployed back to work. Beveridge created the deserving poor now the unemployed who can’t find a job because there are so few vacancies are scroungers and wasters. Language of hatred used by the tories.
I think Beveridge will be turning in his grave today at the thought of what is going on. What kind of a society have we become where poverty is an industry a way of making money? The vendor we spoke to yesterday was just worried about his children and the kind of Christmas they were going to have. I wonder how Jon Bird and others in the Big Issue can justify their change in the share of profit they take from the Big Issue? More support staff in cosy offices while vendors try to sell the paper on the streets on a freezing day in December? Poverty is not about making money. It is about supporting people and giving them the support they need. At this time of year please remember it’s not them and us. It is simply US. Let’s cling on to the optimism of the Beveridge Report and try in our own way to make the world a better place.