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Facing the failures of the welfare state from within – the need for real reform


As politicians and commentators increasingly focus on the failures of the welfare state, the academic author of a new book focuses on his own family’s experiences to find answers.

As a champion of user involvement, Peter Beresford OBE, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University London, wrote All Our Welfare: Towards participatory social policy to analyse the current system from the point of view of a participant.

The Co-Chair of the national disabled people's and service users' organisation Shaping Our Lives, Prof Beresford was himself a mental health service user for 12 years, which included a stay in a psychiatric hospital, as well as living on welfare benefits.

“The present direction of travel for social policy is increasingly evidenced as not working and unsustainable. The old paternalism of the welfare state is something we can’t go back to and we must now really involve people in addressing the fundamental question ‘How should we look after each other in a 21st century society?’” said Prof Beresford.

“People need and want to have a real say in shaping their own and their loved one’s welfare - achieving that is what welfare reform must mean. That is the lesson I have learned from my own experience of the welfare state and as an academic researcher studying it over a lifetime.”

In All Our Welfare, Prof Beresford connects the history, policy and politics of the welfare state with his own past, and defends it from current negative views of ‘scroungers’ playing the system.

Drawing on his own experiences and body of research he looks to demonstrate the value of talking to service users and using their knowledge to fix the system.

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