Annual Sidney Ball Lecture - COVID-19 and the UK Welfare State: where next for post-pandemic welfare provision?

From a fragmented care system to run-down public health, from insecure essential workers to low pay and poverty, Covid-19 has brought out many of the shortcomings of the welfare state. As pandemic gives way to recession, against a backdrop of Brexit and deficit, it is not easy to be optimistic about the future of public provision.

This lecture takes a step back to focus on the way people and politicians think about welfare. During the past half-century, both discourse and policy have shifted from social cohesion and greater equality towards targeting and social division. The early days of the lockdown cut across this, in a surge of generosity, goodwill and neighbourliness. We consider how the climate of ideas that surrounds and shapes policy is likely to develop. Perhaps the shock of pandemic will leader to a kinder welfare state?