Voluntary and Informal Welfare
The historiography of the British welfare state has tended to focus almost exclusively on the role of the state and to stress the eventual triumph of collectivism over individualism, with Britain emerging from the darkness of the Poor Law into the light of the Beveridge Plan of 1942 and the postwar welfare state. This is a story of linear development and progress. However, it is a story that was thrown into question by the apparent reversal of the late 1970s, which began with James Callaghan’s (the Labour Prime Minister) speech of 1976 in which he told the Labour Party conference that governments could no longer expect to spend their way out of recessions, and continued with Margaret Thatcher, who sought to diminish the role of the state in terms of both public expenditure and size of bureaucracy, and to promote instead the market, the voluntary sector and the family as providers of welfare.
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