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Beveridge, Covid and unfinished business

William Beveridge’s 1942 Report shaped the founding of the welfare state—but the plan was never fully implemented. Now is the time to complete the job

By Stewart Lansley  

William Beveridge. Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Recent weeks have seen growing calls for a new “Beveridge plan” to rebuild Britain’s increasingly fragile society. Covid-19 is just the latest of a succession of devastating shocks—from the 2008 crisis to Brexit—which have played havoc with people’s livelihoods. One of those calls, if short on detail, has come from Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer.

So is an updated version of the sweeping post-war welfare reforms instituted by William Beveridge and Labour’s Clement Attlee the right strategy for creating a more secure future? Beveridge’s 1942 Report embraced two key principles. First, it rejected the hated and intrusive pre-war system…

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