Why Has the Reform of the Public Services Been so Important an Issue in UK Politics over the Last Two Decades

The welfare of the citizens is concerned with the rights of the citizens. This idea was developed throughout the last three centuries and gained importance similar to civil and political rights1. The concept of ‘welfare state’ developed in 1934 though the provision of the National Health Service (NHS) took place only after the Second World War2. The state was not involved in the public services like health, education, housing, and income securities in the nineteenth century and the system was run by market services mainly. The failure of such systems led the state to get involved in public services in the form of the ‘Poor Law’. But it increased the expenditure tremendously after industrialization due to low wage working conditions and forced the state to impose restrictions for cost curtailment3. The law left behind the problems of cost control, determination of entitlement and perverse incentives for the British society to face quite a long time.
For the greater part of nineteenth-century, the state had restricted itself in mere regulation in working conditions but towards the latter half of the century it started working for health, housing and education through the introduction of ‘Boards of Health’, ‘Housing Acts’ and ‘Education Acts’4. But the reforms were not much welcome even among the poor due to the undesirable effects of some laws on their lives.
The Liberal Government from 1906-1914 is said to be the pioneer of the modern welfare state. They introduced old-age pension, selective compulsory sickness and unemployment insurance, school meals, etc. But these reforms failed to earn popularity due to various limitations and drawbacks. The First World War had a significant effect on the social reforms as the post-war revolutions in several other countries made the British Government realize that the war-stricken community needed state assistance for survival5. To ensure that the nation did not fall back on the state it imposed ‘means test’ and&nbsp.‘genuinely seeking work condition’ which made securing aid quite difficult and did not help the poor much.&nbsp.