Page 1: Introduction
After the Second World War, the British welfare state was further strengthened. The welfare programme offered citizens an education, an opportunity to find a job, adequate housing, free healthcare and financial support in times of special need. The state guaranteed a certain minimum level of provision that did not depend on people’s ability to pay. If people wanted something better, then they were free to find it and pay for it.
Fifty years on, most British politicians remain committed to the idea of a welfare state that includes free education, a National Health Service, and selective financial support. They recognise, however, that people’s needs have changed, along with their expectations of what governments can and should be reasonably expected to provide. For example, people now look to have greater control over their own lives and over the social and economic choices they make. Many citizens are clearer about their own rights, particularly as consumers, whilst governments regularly remind them of their responsibilities as citizens.
Faced with increasing demands on what the welfare state provides, governments have also reviewed how best they can identify and help those in greatest need. In looking to provide a more efficient welfare state, in which services and benefits are better targeted on those who most need them, the present UK government is also seeking to protect the interests of those citizens who, as taxpayers, pay for the welfare system. So the welfare state is being rethought, reformed and modernised.
The DfEE (Department for Education and Employment) is responsible for improving two main areas: education and opportunities for employment. The DfEE recognises the link between the quality of education that young people receive and their chances of finding a job. It is acting to improve young people’s education. At the same time, the DfEE is looking to improve how the labour market works, so that the number of people able to find jobs is markedly increased at every stage of the business cycle.
This case study outlines the DfEE’s action programme for employment. The programme’s main aim is to reduce the number of people dependent on welfare benefits because they have no job and to help them move ‘from welfare into work’.