Objectives and outcomes of means testing under the British welfare state
The principal objective of this thesis is to determine why, how and with what outcomes means tests for 'non-income-replacement' benefits were adopted in England and Wales from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s. The approach taken is to explore four benefits: free prescription medicines; free school meals; student grants; and civil legal aid. I use documents to identify the objectives, administrative details and design of the benefits which are the focus of this thesis. The method used to find out how many and what sorts of people were eligible under the means tests is microsimulation with micro-data. There was no high point of generosity in the mid-1970s for these benefits, as the historiography often suggests. These four benefits had very different objectives. There was also incoherence in objectives over time, as governments struggled with spending constraints rather than following a welfare ideology, which serves to undermine theories which assume that welfare states are a unified institution. The changing income levels for entitlement for benefit show that who was deemed to be 'in need' of a particular benefit shifted over time. The results show little support for the theory of middle class 'capture' of the welfare state, which implies that the influence of pressure groups on welfare state change is more subtle than that theory suggests. Although the intention of restricting entitlement for all the benefits was achieved, they were not very well targeted on those with the lowest incomes, especially in the 1990s. This finding shows that the outcome did not meet all the stated objectives, with implications for the design of future policy. I also find that means tested benefits have embodied values, which are not necessarily made explicit as policy objectives. This, along with the failure to target effectively, demonstrates that the way a means testing policy is implemented does matter.