Want: Still the easiest giant to attack?

Stephen McKay, Karen Rowlingson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beveridge claimed that ‘want’ was ‘in some ways the easiest [giant] to attack’ and yet 80 years after his report was published, poverty persists and, indeed, has been increasing in recent years. In this article we review both the key features of the Beveridge Report in relation to poverty and its implementation by the Labour government 1945-51, before turning to an analysis of how social security policy has changed since then. We then review changes in poverty levels since World War Two and attitudes to poverty. We conclude that Beveridge’s plan helped to reduce poverty in the immediate post-war years not least because of full employment. But poverty was not eradicated even at this time due to low levels of wages in work and low levels of benefits out of work. Since then, a number of reforms have generally moved further away from the Beveridge plan including a renewed focus on means testing and cuts in benefit levels. These have also contributed to increased levels of poverty, particularly for those of working age in recent years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-244
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Policy & Administration
Issue number2
Early online date13 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

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