Social Security Guide : The White Paper and the Beveridge Report Compared
1944-10-01 1944 1940s 20 pages and will cater for any needs or emergencies which for some reason do not come within the scope of insurance. (The deserted wife, included by Beveridge in insurance rights, is one of the people who will come into the assistance orbit in the Government scheme). A Test o...
|MCR - The Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick
London : The Social Security League
1 October 1944
and will cater for any needs or emergencies which for some reason do not come within the scope of insurance. (The deserted wife, included by Beveridge in insurance rights, is one of the people who will come into the assistance orbit in the Government scheme). A Test of Need? Assistance operates through a test of need. That is to say the claimant is asked to declare his income before he can receive assistance. If his income falls below a specific level in relation to his family responsibilities, or, if, exceptionally, he has special needs, he will receive assistance at a prescribed rate, though even here there is room for flexible discretionary payments in special circumstances. The old ''means test" had a bad name. This was first because it was harshly administered by the Poor Law which was obliged to recover cost of maintenance from a wide range of relatives. Secondly, in the Depression, acute misery was intensified not only by deplorably low rates, but also by inapt administration. Thirdly, the means test used to be applied not only to the family unit but to a wider household. Fourthly, the very poor felt that this baring of their poverty destroyed their self-respect. Finally there was widespread objection to the arbitrary division into two categories of those with similar cause of need. Concerning the unemployed, the Minority Report of the Royal Commission emphasised this in 1932: "Such a division of the unemployed, based on the amount of their unemployment, has no basis in any real difference among them and must always appear inequitable to the unemployed themselves." If the means test had not originally been associated with deterrent treatment of poverty, it might not be in disrepute to-day. A declaration of income is frequently required for other purposes — Income Tax returns for example, and the allotment of free places in secondary schools, help with university expenses, and tenancy of council dwellings. Social security in New Zealand, is also based on needs declared. Assistance is the unknown factor in the Government scheme. The White Paper devotes only three paragraphs to it. All the emphasis is on insurance. But, as the following pages show, for many families dependent on Social Security payments, assistance will be vital. For them assistance will make the difference between sufficiency or want. If the administration aims primarily to promote well-being, and not to husband public funds, assistance can be a real weapon against poverty, a weapon which can be directed withersoever poverty appears. If however the scales are niggardly or the administration harsh, the Plan will fail. The spirit of Social Security requires above all that want shall be abolished and that this should be a recognised part of State policy. This means both the provision of sufficient cash to meet basic needs, and the elimination, as far as possible, of the actual cause of poverty. Charity does not enter in, nor patronage. Whether the mechanism is insurance or assistance, public money is applied, by public wish, to finish poverty. In the one case the recipient has it by right of contributions paid, in the *Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance, Final Report, 1932, Cmd. 4185. Minority Report, page 383. 5