The Beveridge vision
The Beveridge vision

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The Beveridge vision

1.3 The five giants

At this point let us examine the idea of the ‘five giants’ (Want, Ignorance, Disease, Squalor and Idleness). Beveridge, remember, was not just writing about income protection; he had a vision of social reconstruction and social progress. The five giants represented the key areas of need for all of us – the areas where we should pool resources to tackle our needs collectively (see the box below).

Figure 1.3

Beveridge's five giants

Want or The need for an adequate income for all
Disease or The need for access to health care
Ignorance or The need for access to educational opportunity
Squalor or The need for adequate housing
Idleness or The need for gainful employment

Fiona Williams (1989) has argued that there were two more giants on the road to social progress that Beveridge did not notice. She labelled them, in words which are familiar to us but which would have been quite foreign to Beveridge and his contemporaries, the giants of Sexism and Racism. She said:

‘When Beveridge announced his attack on the five giants – Want, Squalor, Idleness, Ignorance and Disease – he hid the giants of Racism and Sexism, and the fights against them, behind statues to the Nation and the White Family.’

(Williams, 1989, p. 162)

A look at these will give us more of a perspective on what was being assumed about the range of caring work that you have been studying in this course, how it was to be handled, and why care was not clearly coming to the fore at this most important moment of establishment of the welfare state.

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