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School of Politics and International Relations

The free school meals row speaks to an age-old argument about how welfare should work

17 June 2020

"Public policy is complicated - particularly welfare policy," suggests Professor Tim Bale, from Queen Mary University of London, in this opinion piece for Prospect Magazine. Professor Bale argues that welfare policy is about symbolism, and it has been subject to debate ever since the establishment of the welfare state earlier in the 20th century, and before that, the Poor Law of the Elizabethan era. The argument is "whether or not it makes sense, both financially and morally, to be spending public money on welfare measures which, rather than benefiting only those who deserve our assistance most, may well end up helping people who don't really need it." This debate continues to this day, most recently, with Marcus Rashford's successful campaign to persuade the government to extend free school meals vouchers into the summer holidays. 

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