Beveridge Report

Social Insurance and Allied Services

Report by Sir William Beveridge

Beveridge outlines his proposals for a new welfare state.

Presented to Parliament by Command of His Majesty November 1942

HMSO Cmd 6404

The report is subject to an Open Government Licence.


1.        The Inter-departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services were appointed in June, 1941, by the Minister without Portfolio, then responsible for the consideration of reconstruction problems.   The terms of reference required the Committee “to undertake, with special reference to the inter-relation of the schemes, a survey of the existing national schemes of social insurance and allied services, including workmen’s compensation and to make recommendations.”   The first duty of the Committee was to survey, the second to recommend.   For the reasons stated below in-paragraph 40 the duty of recommendation was confined later to the Chairman of the Committee.

The Committee’s Survey And Its Results

2.        The schemes of social insurance and allied services which the Inter-departmental Committee have been called on to survey have grown piece-meal. Apart from the Poor Law, which dates from the time of Elizabeth, the schemes surveyed are the product of the last 45 years beginning with the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1897.  That Act, applying in the first instance to a limited number of occupations, was made general in 1906. Compulsory health insurance began in 1912.   Unemployment insurance began for a few industries in 1912 and was made general in 1920. The first Pensions Act, giving non-contributory pensions subject to a means test at the age of 70, was passed in 1908. In 1925 came the Act which started contributory pensions for old age, for widows and for orphans.   Unemployment insurance, after a troubled history, was put on a fresh basis by the Unemployment Act of 1934, which set up at the same time a new national service of Unemployment Assistance.   Meantime, the local machinery for relief of destitution, after having been exhaustively examined by the Royal Commission of 1905-1909, has been changed both by the new treatment of unemployment and in many other ways, including a transfer of the responsibilities of the Boards of Guardians to Local Authorities.  Separate provision for special types of disability — such as blindness- — has been made from time to time. Together with this growth of social insurance and impinging on it at many points have gone developments of medical treatment, particularly in hospitals and other institutions;   developments of services devoted to the welfare of children, in school and before it; and a vast growth of voluntary provision for death and other contingencies, made by persons of the insured classes through Industrial Life Offices, Friendly Societies and Trade Unions.

  1.    In all this change and development, each problem has been dealt with separately with little or no reference to allied problems.  The first task of the Committee has been to attempt for the first time a comprehensive survey of the whole field of social insurance and allied services to show just what provision is now made and how it is made for many different forms of need. The results of this survey are set out in Appendix B describing social insurance and the allied services as they exist today in Britain. The picture presented is impressive in two ways. First, it shows that provision for most of the many varieties of need through interruption of earnings and other causes that may arise in modern industrial communities has already been made in Britain on a scale not surpassed and hardly rivalled in any other country of the world. In one respect only of the first importance, namely limitation of medical service^ both in the range of treatment which is provided as of right and in respect of the classes of persons for whom it is provided, does Britain’s achieve­ment fall seriously short of what has been accomplished elsewhere; it falls short also in its provision for cash benefit for maternity and funerals and through the defects of its system for workmen’s compensation. In all other fields British provision for security, in adequacy of amount and in compre­hensiveness, will stand comparison with that of any other country; few countries will stand comparison with Britain. Second, social insurance and /the allied services, as they exist today, are conducted by a complex of disconnected administrative organs, proceeding on different principles, doing invaluable service but at a cost in money and trouble and anomalous treatment of identical problems for which there is no justification. In a system of social security better on the whole than can be found in almost any other country there are serious deficiencies which call for remedy.

  2. Thus limitation of compulsory insurance to persons under contract of service and below a certain remuneration if engaged on non-manual work is a serious gap. Many persons working on their own account are poorer and more in need of State insurance than employees ; the remuneration limit for non-manual employees is arbitrary and takes no account of family responsibility. There is, again, no real difference between the income needs of persons who are sick and those who are unemployed, but they get different rates of benefit involving different contribution conditions and with | meaningless distinctions between persons of different ages. An adult insured man with a wife and two children receives 38/- per week should he become unemployed ; if after some weeks of unemployment he becomes sick and not available for work, his insurance income falls to 18/-. On the other hand a youth of 17 obtains 9/- when he is unemployed, but should he become sick his insurance income rises to 12/- per week. There are, to take another example, three different means tests for non-contributory pensions, for supplementary pensions and for public assistance, with a fourth test—for unemployment assistance—differing from that for supplementary pensions in some particulars.

  3. Many other such examples could be given; they are the natural result of the way in which social security has grown in Britain. It is not open to question that, by closer co-ordination, the existing social services could be made at once more beneficial and more intelligible to those whom they serve and more economical in their administration.