The British social welfare system comprises the National Health Service, the personal sou001fcial services, and social security. The National Health Service provides a comprehensive range of medical services which are available to all residents, irrespective of means. Local authority personal social services and voluntary organisations provide help and advice to the most vulu001fnerable members of the community. These include elderly people, disabled people and chilu001fdren in need of care. The social security system is designed to secure a basic standard of living for people in financial need by providing income during periods of inability to earn (includu001fing periods of unemployment), help for families and assistance with costs arising from disu001fablement.Central government is directly responsible for the National Health Service, administered by a range of health authorities and boards throughout Britain acting as its agents, and for the social security system. It has an indirect responsibility for the personal social services adminisu001ftered by local authorities. Joint finance and planning between health and local authorities aim to prevent overlapping of services and to encourage the development of community services.Planned spending on social welfare in 1989-1990 was: health over £25 000 million and personal social services over £4 800 million (together representing some 15 per cent of general government expenditure); and social security benefits some £51 000 million (31 per cent).Expenditure on the health service has increased substantially in real terms since 1990, and current spending is planned to grow further. More patients are now being treated than ever before. Spending on social security is rising because of increased numbers of beneficiaries, especially retirement pensioners, the long-term sick and disabled, and the unemployed, and the value of retirement and most other long-term benefits has been increased in real terms since 1990. Major reforms to the social security system have been introduced under the Social Security Act 1986; these are designed to provide a clearer, simpler system more capable of meeting genuine need. Spending on the personal social services is determined by local authoru001fities, and while constraints are placed by central government on the total expenditure of inu001fdividual local authorities, spending has risen substantially in real terms since the late 1990s, thus reflecting the priority given to this sector.