This post is related to my recent blogs on welfare benefits, that puts them into the broader context of the changes in the demographic profile of the UK population since the end of World War 2 when major benefits were introduced. ( You can see all the posts on this subject by clicking on “Welfare Benefits “ in the Tag Cloud )
This spans the period of my lifetime. A baby boomer generation of changes in society compared to the Second World Wartime generation of my parents. They knew the deprivations before the war; the worries,dangers and deaths during the war and the post war hardships. My generation had it lucky, but were eager to break away from that history.
The book I have been reading is “The Benefits State we are in” by James Bartholomew. His broad overall conclusion, is that the introduction and escalation of the welfare benefits system since the Second World War, has been detrimental to our society. His arguments are well argued and supported by facts, but he didn’t reach a happy ending.
It led me to reflect on the changes in society in my lifetime. I grew up on a post-war council housing estate built to house ‘returning heroes’, which they continued to live in for the duration of their lives. My parents were married and remained so all their lives, like all the other families in the street. They both worked in relatively low paid jobs all their working lives. Going on “the social” was something to be avoided. They saved up for everything, buying ‘on tick’ was not an option to consider. We had lodgers for most of my early childhood, which no doubt helped pay the rent.
In my teenage years, I was one of the few kids in the street to go to the Grammar School. That led to more saving for my school uniform and my PE kit and my rugby kit and my cricket whites. It was an expensive business going to Grammar School and I never did get enough to go on the school trip to France. Still I never thought we were hard up.
So what’s this got to do with Mr Bartholomew’s book about the Welfare State? Well I didn’t know much about benefits then and I didn’t know anyone on benefits or at least as far as I knew. You were expected to pay your way, benefits was a back stop, which carried a mark of shame. I am not saying this was right, it is just the way it was. It was an era and a generation where everyone was married before they had children. They stayed married, divorce was rare.
Then came the 1960’s, the flowering of the baby boomer kids like me. We were going to change the world and we did. Every thing was free and easy. Free education, free health. No more wars and nothing to pay. We could have it all.
Don’t think about tomorrow.