4: Market welfare

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Market welfare incorporates provision of services by organisations independent of the state, finance from private business, and individuals purchasing services from their personal resources as ‘welfare consumers’. While the ‘state’ elements of welfare often receive the greatest attention in policy and academic contexts, most developed countries will also have market elements to their welfare funding and provision. In many cases such funding and provision will in fact have pre-dated that from the state (see Chapter Two). Market welfare can exist in parallel to the public elements or be integral within the overall welfare system overseen by policy makers. Burchardt and Obolenskaya (2016) estimate that in England in 2007/8 public welfare spending accounted for £396 billion and private spending £221 billion – so almost a third of the total welfare spend was from private sources. In some countries market welfare may be a voluntary option which those with sufficient resources can access in place of or alongside state provision. In others it is the only option, unless the individual or family meets a low-income or other threshold such as age or disability. For example individuals may need to meet their social care costs from their personal income or savings following financial assessment of their personal resources, or to pay for out-of-pocket expenses such as school meals, uniforms or trips (Table 4.1). It is rare, in the UK at least, for individuals to have no call on any aspect of public welfare support, but there are those who largely do so – a group that Burchardt and Propper (1999) categorise as the ‘private welfare class’.

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