Our welfare state was revolutionary: it provided us with a good education, decent homes, support when out of work – it enabled us to live longer and better. The British model was emulated globally but it is no longer working. Today our welfare institutions are out of step with society. Our response has not been to develop new models but to try and find efficiency within the old: cut costs and manage better.
I think this approach does not work and over the last ten years I have been developing a set of radical alternatives. I have called the new system I have been working on Relational Welfare because at the heart of these new approaches to health, work, to growing up and to ageing is a switch from a 20th century transactional approach – let me pass you the sticking plaster – to a 21st century approach that stands beside you and works with you to help you grow. Relational Welfare supports people to grow their own capabilities, the most important of which turns out to be the human bonds between us: our relationships. In our current systems everyone suffers – those who need support but cannot access it and the professionals who work within systems that constrain good work. Relational welfare is an affordable approach for everybody: professionals, communities and the vulnerable.