From The Poor Law To Welfare To Work

Posted on 27 Mar 2014   Categories: Publications Related Tags:  , , ,

What have we learned from a century of anti-poverty policies?

Foreword

Paul Hackett, Director of the Smith Institute and Richard Rawes, Chair of the Webb Memorial Trust
“It is now possible to abolish destitution,” claimed Beatrice Webb at a rally in 1909 to promote her Minority Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws. This aspiration was shared by a generation of social reformers who followed in her footsteps, and remains the objective of anti-poverty campaigners today. For the Webb Memorial Trust and the Smith Institute, eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities are at the heart of the quest for the good society.

As this report shows, significant improvements have undoubtedly been made since Beatrice’s time, when poverty consigned many families to the hardship of the workhouse. But progress has not come easily, and solutions suited to one era have often had to be reinvented for another, as definitions and public perceptions of poverty continuously shifted. The authors have successfully captured the story of how anti-poverty policies have evolved and highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of government interventions. They have also provided a useful international comparison and discussed the drivers for change and the lessons learned.

However, this report is much more than a historical commentary and critical assessment of what has been achieved. The evaluation of anti-poverty policies presented in this report is also intended to inform the current debate on how we eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities, which – as the authors show – have increased during recent periods of growth. The cornerstone of the report’s analysis and its challenge to today’s policy makers is the contention that redistribution (through welfare) is essential, but can only be part of the solution to combating poverty. The evidence from more than a century of reform is that lasting reductions in poverty and inequality also demand pre-distribution policies, notably in the labour market (through work and pay). This perspective is important and timely as governments seek to rebalance the relationship between the state and markets to achieve a fairer and more prosperous society.

We would like to thank David Coats, the lead author, and Nick Johnson, for researching and writing this report. We are also grateful to the following for their contributions: Paul Hunter, head of research at the Smith Institute; Michael Ward; Professor Baroness Ruth Lister; Barry Knight and the trustees of the Webb Memorial Trust; and all the members of the report’s advisory group – Naomi Eisenstadt, Oxford University; Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group; Donald Hirsch, Loughborough University; and Stephen Machin, London School of Economics. The views expressed are those of the authors alone, who also take sole responsibility for any factual inaccuracies.

From The Poor Law To Welfare To Work

What have we learned from a century of anti-poverty policies?

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Posted on 27 Mar 2014   Categories: Publications Related Tags:  , , ,