A disadvantage is that people who do not need the money receive it. If the money were targeted only at poor people, them the people who really need help would be able to get it. It is also argued that it is the responsibility of the family to pay for the children. The advantages of child benefit are that it is cheaper than giving tax relief for children and the money goes direct to the mother. The Welfare State also has other responsibilities to families. When a family breaks down Welfarism should make provision for the single parent.
However most single parents live below the poverty line and rely on the Welfare State benefits to support them; but unfortunately the system only provides limited support. Even when a man or woman is bringing up children on their own, and they feel that they can manage on paid employment, they may find that there is no economic advantage in doing so. The kind of low paid work they are likely to find, more so for women, together with the expenses of childminding fees, means that most single parents will not be any better off working than claiming benefits.
The Welfare State has also failed the disabled and elderly. As part of the Conservative government policy of ‘care in the community’ there has been an increased reliance on the family to care for dependent relatives. This has reduced the burden on the Welfare State to be a major provider of care. The policy removes certain groups from institutional care into the care of the family. The policy applies particularly to the mentally ill, disabled and elderly. Supporters of the policy argue that it is not good for people to live in institutions unless they really need to do so.
Critics of the policy are concerned by what they believe to be inadequate supplies of resources needed for good quality care by families. Many families have found themselves unable to cope. Sociologists have differing views and opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of the Welfare State. Marxists argue that the main function of the Welfare State, in relation to the family, is an ideological one. They tend to see that Welfare State provision is necessary to capitalists because they need a healthy and reasonably well-educated workforce.
They see the Welfare State as serving the interest of the ruling capitalist class. The capitalists do not even fund the Welfare State system because the workers pay for it through direct taxation. O’Conner (1973) suggests ‘that the capitalist state is concerned with accumulation- assisting capitalists to create profits- and with legitimating- making the system appear fair and just to all’. Marxists argue that the Welfare State has done very little to challenge the gap between the rich and the poor, which is what the Welfare State was initially set up to achieve.
Westergaard and Resler suggest that the wealthy benefit more from the Welfare state than the poor. As Marxists see the Welfare State linked to capitalism, Taylor (2000) argues that there is little chance of overcoming poverty, ill health and unemployment, as these problems are created by the capitalist system. (Taylor, 2000, P156) Feminists suggest that the Welfare State concept is good, but is based on the exploitation of women who are usually low paid carers both in and out of the home. They emphasises male dominance or patriarchy.
Women are seen doing domestic labour; therefore benefits tend to be aimed at the needs of the working man. The various feminists groups have differing views on the role of the Welfare State. Liberal feminists believe that society can adapt, Marxist feminists share many of the views of Marxists that the state serves the interest of capital; and radical feminists argue that the state oppresses women in the interest of men. All feminists however agree that the Welfare State exploits women as carers and supporters.
Unpaid domestic labour is considered to be a part of the women’s role, which justifies the state and employer decline responsibility for care of children, sick, disabled and elderly. Feminists such as Michele Barrett (1980) ‘argue that in supporting the ideal of a nuclear family in which the father is the breadwinner and the mother and children are economically dependent, the state not only reinforces male dominance in the family but helps to serve the interests of the capitalist class’. (Taylor, 2000, P157) Thinkers of the New Right are opposed to the development of the Welfare State.
They argue that it is over protective and too generous in its benefits and has led to a dependency culture, where people rely on the government for help. They want people to focus less on their ‘rights’ and more on their ‘duties’ to society. The New Right thinkers believe that the Welfare State should be reduced forcing people to turn to the private sector for their welfare needs. An example of this is health care. They argue that families should use private health care- insurance based for the majority of people.
For families who have limited income there would be assistance with fees or a residual state health care sector. They also argue that social security is bad because it undermines individual efforts causing a dependency on the state. They believe that it has a distorting effect on wages, by forcing employers to pay higher wages. Their rationale is that the Welfare State is inefficient because it depends on taxation. High taxation acts as a disincentive for people to earn because they are taxed and can not benefit from the money they have earned.
The New Right, when in office under Margaret Thatcher, suggested that the government could not afford to keep pouring large sums of money into the Welfare State. The Welfare State evolved in the 1940’s for a number of reasons. All citizens were effectively guaranteed an equal right to help from the Welfare State. However equality is still a controversial concept. It can mean a number of things such as equality of treatment by the state, equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. The efficiency with which the Welfare State promoted individual welfare is also debatable.
Therefore a conclusion about the achievements of the Welfare State is a personal one; also no sociological perspective on the Welfare State can be seen as correct because those who are critical of society and social inequality take different views from those who believe in a ‘free market’. The argument is that the Welfare State does try to take a benevolent role by easing the way for people to obtain benefits, but it has caused negative effects. It has taken away the will for individuals to look after themselves, the sense of obligation of a family to look after its members and a decline in the sense of community.
Some sociologists have argued that the Welfare State has taken over many functions of the family. Furthermore, the fact that the major of state services are free means that people make use of them even when they do not really need them. D. Cheal argues that Britain’s Welfare State policies have not been well developed concerning families, because not every bodies needs have been meet. The government is still; making choices about who is the most needy, and this is not always to the benefit of the family.
The dominant ideology in Britain with regards to the Welfare State is Individualism, which favours individual responsibility rather than the states provision. Therefore I conclude that the Welfare State’s role, as being benevolent, with regards to the family, is purely ideological.
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