Beveridge was a British economist and social reformer, closely associated with the development of the welfare state and the birth of the NHS.
William Beveridge was born on 5 March 1879 in Bengal, India, where his father was a judge in the Indian Civil Service. He trained a lawyer but came to prominence during the Liberal government of 1906 – 1914 when he was asked to advise David Lloyd George on old age pensions and national insurance. During World War One, Beveridge was involved in mobilising and controlling manpower. In 1919, he became director of the London School of Economics where he remained until 1937.
When, in 1941, the government commissioned a report into the ways that Britain should be rebuilt after World War Two, Beveridge was an obvious choice to take charge. He published his report in 1942 and recommended that the government should find ways of fighting the five ‘Giant Evils’ of ‘Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’.
In 1945, the Labour Party defeated Winston Churchill’s Conservative Party in the general election. The new prime minister, Clement Attlee, announced he would introduce the welfare state outlined in the 1942 Beveridge Report. This included the establishment of a National Health Service in 1948 with free medical treatment for all. A national system of benefits was also introduced to provide ‘social security’ so that the population would be protected from the ‘cradle to the grave’. The new system was partly built on the national insurance scheme set up by Lloyd George in 1911. People in work still had to make contributions each week, as did employers, but the benefits provided were now much greater.