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Fighting poverty, inequality and injusticeA manifesto inspired by Peter Townsend$
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Alan Walker, Adrian Sinfield, and Carol Walker

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781847427151

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847427151.001.0001

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For universalism and against the means test

For universalism and against the means test

(p.132) (p.133) seven For universalism and against the means test
Fighting poverty, inequality and injustice

Carol Walker

Policy Press

This chapter sets out the reasons for Peter's impassioned arguments against means tests and in favour of universalism: a campaign which began in the 1950s, in relation to failures of the British social security system, and ended with his critique of The World Bank's promotion of selectivity in developing economies in his final book Building decent societies. It explores the reasons why means-tested benefits systems have consistently been favoured by governments despite, and sometimes because, they do not reach all those for whom they are intended. It notes that Peter criticizes means tests for creating a hierarchy and a ‘division of the population into first-class and second-class citizens’, between the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’, between different categories of claimants and between claimants and taxpayers. It thus points out, the case for universalism is based on far more than its technical superiority to means-tested benefits — has a crucial role to play in the promotion of social justice and solidarity.

Keywords:   means tests, universalism, British social security system, selectivity, Building decent societies, social justice, solidarity

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