According to Beveridge’s 1944 report, only a state policy of full employment could free Britain from what he termed the ‘giant evils’ of Want, Disease, Ignorance and Squalor. The fight against unemployment and the fight against poverty were one and the same, according to Beveridge: “If we attack with determination, unity and clear aim the four giant evils . . . we shall destroy in the process their confederate –the fifth giant of Idleness enforced by mass unemployment.”
The importance of this intrinsic link cannot be overstated. If poverty can be characterised as social exclusion, leading to depression, ill health and criminal activity, then gainful employment can be characterised as social inclusion, leading to a sense of purpose, belonging and engagement with the local community. Even if the welfare state we enjoy today was able to provide an adequate level of support to the unemployed (to the extent that they were brought out of poverty in financial terms), the problem of social exclusion, associated with both unemployment and poverty, would still remain. Eradicating poverty is not merely a case of increasing state benefits.
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