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Public and private welfare activity in the United Kingdom, 1979 to 1999

By Rachel Smithies


This paper analyses the shifting balance between public sector and private sector welfare provision in the United Kingdom over the past two decades. Five sectors – education, health, personal social services, housing, and income maintenance and social security – are examined over three time points, 1979/80, 1995/96, and 1999/2000. Burchardt’s (1997) typology is used to classify welfare activities according to who funds them, who provides them, and who decides on the provider and/or amount of service. It is found that shifts in the composition of welfare activity have been relatively small and gradual: around half of all welfare activity, dropping from 52 percent to 49 percent, is entirely public; around a quarter, rising from 24 percent to 29 percent, is entirely private; and the remainder involves a mixture of both sectors. Within the latter group, there was a notable increase over time in the contracting-out of public services, which rose from 6 percent to 10 percent of all welfare activity

Topics: HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Publisher: Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2005
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online

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  1. (2003). 23,853 Percent of grand total 27.1% 24.8% 27.4% All
  2. (1997). 8,070 Percent of grand total 8.2% 14.5% 19.6% All
  3. (2000). 8,285 Percent of grand total 8.7% 12.8% 12.6% All
  4. All figures are for UK doi
  5. All figures are for UK in 1999/00 £million (GDP deflated). General notes: Method is to measure current contributions to pension provision Since basic state pension is unfunded, this is measured as cost of pensions now
  6. All figures are for UK in 1999/00 £million (GDP deflated). General notes: See Table A:5 for details of pension calculations
  7. Ancillary services 122 300 Not available for 1979/80; 1995/6 figure includes only contracted-out laundry and catering (grossed up from England figure); 99/00 figure includes a wider range of services.
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  16. For residents of independent are homes. 1995/6 and 1999/00 figures are grossed up from GB figures. TOTAL 594 5,609 6,168 Percent of grand total 11.1% 34.5% 32.4% Private provision, public finance, private decision
  17. General ophthalmic services 120 174 Sight tests. Assumes all privately provided in 1995/6 and 1999/2000. Estimated based on England and Wales expenditure, adjusted using figures on number of sight tests
  18. General ophthalmic services 172 Sight tests and dispensing paid out of public funds. Assumed to be all public provision in 1979/80.
  19. Homelessness provision 223 88 [as Timeseries] Bed & Breakfast accommodation and private leasing. Not identified separately in 1979/80. 1995/6 figure is from 1994/5 data grossed up using GDP deflator. Grossed up from England figures.
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  30. Private "welfare" insurance 99 760 879 1979/80 and 1995/6 figures include Permanent Health Insurance and Mortgage Payment protection in 1995/6. 1999/00 figures exclude the latter.
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  38. Transport 1,019 1,025 Local authority current expenditure. Assumed to be contracted-out in 1995/6 and 1999/2000. Grossed up from England figures.
  39. (2002). UK Housing Review Coventry: Chartered Institute of Housing and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 30 Table A:4: Social Security

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