The Five Giants That Helped Build A Nation (By Peg Hanafin)

In 1941 the British Government commissioned a report into ways in which Britain could be rebuilt after the Second World War.

In 1941 the British Government commissioned a report into ways in which Britain could be rebuilt after the Second World War.

In 1942 the Government unveiled a plan offering care from “the cradle to the grave”. The new Prime Minister would implement the report chaired by William Beverage, an economist and social reformer who had been chosen as the obvious choice, because of his background. He published his report in 1942 and recommended that the government should find ways of fighting the five giant evils which was besetting the citizens of England as to what could be done for people on low incomes. This White paper was the basis for much social legislation which would be implemented both in Britain and Ireland over the years.

These he recognised to be; Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

Are these still prevalent in today’s world and how do they relate to our present economic circumstances? Maybe we have not moved that far away from what were the causes of so much human miseries inflicted on so many, after yet another war between nations. In hindsight was it all worth it, or was there a better way to settle differences?

Let’s examine what Beverage saw as in need of addressing and see can they be related to what has happened in our own country.

Want. Throughout our independence we were never more in want of so many different aspects of living in today’s Ireland. We want our security back, we want our peace of mind back, we want our jobs back, we want to be able to live in decent conditions, we want to be able to buy necessities for our children, we want a good education system, we want a health service that meet our needs, we want a government that do the job they are paid to do and we want a Church that we can put our faith in — I could go on and on.

So I think Want is in need of being addressed to conquer our present difficulties and give some hope to our people.

Disease. Even though mammoth advances have been made, a myriad of diseases are still a very big problem for our citizens. Diseases have moved on since the like of tuberculosis. But Heart disease, strokes, cancer, depression, alcoholism and the many different diseases that comes with the on-set of older people, mean that we still have not conquered disease. Hospitals are creaking at the seams, with waiting lists getting longer, community services being slashed, and our mental health services in a shambles. When we look at the number of very ill people who wait on trollies for days, suffering the further indignity of being on public view, we have to wonder how far we really have come. Have we moved on? I do not think so. Are these facilities the ones we thought we were going to get when a structure was put in place by the so-called experts? How are these results reconciled with the huge work force and the management in our health service.

Idleness. We are riddled with idleness from the highest paid in our country to the people at the bottom of the ladder. It was surely Idleness that has caused the total collapse of our economy. People were richly remunerated for doing jobs that they did not do. Perhaps some were incapable of the positions they held, but if so, what mechanism was in place to remove or replace them with someone efficient. Or who in the first instance thought they were capable of doing that job? They were employed to do important work to oversee and ensure the livelihoods of our people, which have now been shattered. Huge and impacting mistakes were made because not enough of time and expertise was given to the task at hand. We still see many of these perpetrators of Idleness playing in the golf links, sunning themselves in luxury on the Costa del Sol, or other such places, without a thought or acknowledgement for the destruction that their idleness inflicted on so many. We have many able bodied people who have got state assistance for all of their lives and cascade that ethos to their children, at the expense of those who do work. We have people heading up large State bodies, and who were not at their desks, to ensure that the job was done properly, all at the eventual expense of the public purse and the untold misery that they caused. Idleness crosses all divides and will have to be addressed more aggressively to make a “day’s work for a day’s pay” the requirement for their salaries. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” as the old saying goes. Accountability must be rigorously implemented with urgency.

Squalor. When you look at programmes made and see people who live in poor and inadequate accommodation, those who live on the streets, with no hygiene facilities, those whose homes are now falling in to disrepair due to lack of finances and those who live in poor and inadequate housing, people unable to care for themselves and need assistance, squalor is relevant to all those, who are the weakest in our communities. In spite of the Celtic tiger, the many people who were left behind with addictions and lack of employment skills and those who live on the margins all endure squalor to a more or lesser degree. Squalor has not disappeared and for those who have to endure living in conditions that are akin to the third world. In the Ireland of today, we must surely start to question the pain inflicted on so many, now that all these boom-time houses lie idle surely an innovative plan could be put in place to help those in need of a change in life-style.

Ignorance. The lack of knowledge, education, awareness, or the empathy with peoples’ problems is causing untold pain in lives today. The “I’m alright Jack” attitude which has infiltrated our society shows a disrespect for the plight of others who are struggling for survival, worried and anxious about how they will make ends meet, are all to be seen on a daily basis. Decisions are being made by those who have power, but are ignorant of the facts of how other people live and how they have to survive. Is it proper to have people in authority infringing in a damaging way on the finances or daily living of others that they themselves do not understand, or educate themselves as to the circumstance presenting? To make an informed decision, you must be able to understand the facts, so how can someone who lives on a large salary decide what is best and what is the minimum to meet someone else’s needs. Guess work is not the answer. Informed and diligent personnel, of whom we have many in this country, and who have chartered productive ideas should be encouraged to blow the whistle on those who made bad and damaging decisions for our country.

William Beverage, if he returned today, would be disappointed in how far we have progressed his recommendations and his vision, which laid the foundation for the marginalised in Britain over seventy years ago, for the betterment of life for those in need of social care and who are the weakest link in our society. In what is supposed to be a Christian country we most certainly should be in a better place than we are today. What a pity for so many, what a lesson to ponder for those in power, who have brought us to this predicament.

Article by Peg Hanafin, MSc. Rehab. Couns/psych.