Liberal Reforms 1906 To 1914 Essay

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1 Liberal Reforms Motives Essay
Higher History

2 Essay TitleHow far were the reports on poverty produced by Booth and Rowntree responsible for the Liberal social reforms of ?

3 IntroductionIn the late nineteenth century, two social surveys were produced by Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree that highlighted the extent of poverty in Britain. The reports challenged the idea that poverty was self-inflicted and introduced the concept of the ‘deserving poor’. In turn, it is argued that the Liberal government moved away from the laissez-faire attitude and introduced social reforms between 1906 and 1914 to help the poorest sections of society. However, it is too simplistic to attribute the passing of the Liberal Reforms to social surveys alone. The Liberal Government had also been encouraged to pass the Reforms in order to improve national stock and efficiency. Recruitment for the Boer war had highlighted the poor health of the nation, with potential recruits being rejected on medical grounds. Fears that Britain was declining as a world power resulted in steps being taken to improve the quality of the workforce. In addition to humanitarian reasons, there were also political motives for passing the Reforms. The Liberals were aware of the potential of the new Labour party to attract its working class voters with promises of widespread Socialist reforms. New Liberalism involved junior members of the Liberal party breaking with the policies of the 19th Century so appealing to the new working class voters and increasing their standing within the party.

4 1. Booth and Rowntree Reports
Give some facts about findings of reports. (KU)Can see results in legislation passed – pensions, school meals and National Insurance Acts helping the deserving poor.Analysis:- They showed how big the problem of poverty really was, over 30%, dispelling the idea that it was 3% and very few people were affected by it.- Showed real causes of poverty e.g. unemployment, old age, sickness etc. and that most of it was not self-inflicted as society had imagined. This was important in attacking the idea of laissez-faire government.

5 Analysis points - Surveys
It was quite clear that the nation had been shocked by the extent of poverty, 30% of the population, meant that the new Liberal government had a mandate to introduce some welfare measures like free school meals, clearly out of genuine concern for the poor.Rowntree’s poverty line also demonstrated that most poverty was not self-inflicted this made the government & public more ready to accept some welfare reforms.

6 2. National Stock/Efficiency
Boer War – 1/3rd recruits rejected as unfitFears of Britain’s decline as a world powerMain competitor Germany had introduced welfare reforms with positive resultsIn turn, led to legislation like free school meals & school medical inspections to improve health.

7 Analysis – National Efficiency
- Not just reports of Booth and Rowntree that led to passing of Reforms – fears over Britain’s empire and trade led to efforts being made to improve the national stock with limited welfare reforms copied from Germany

8 3. Fear of Labour Party/Socialism
Liberals was traditionally supported by working class especially in areas like Scotland, Wales, N England.New Labour Party was growing and was winning working class support for its campaigns for social welfare policies, such as old age pensions and unemployment benefits.Liberals introduced reforms based on Labour policies e.g. old age pensions.

9 Analysis – Fear of Labour/Socialism
Political motives not to lose new working class male vote to Labour as well as humanitarian concerns resulted in Liberal Reforms.Was a genuine fear of socialism, if the Liberals did not pass some reforms then working class voters would turn to LabourLiberals tried to attract voters with limited reforms e.g. pensions set at age 70 to avoid more expensive reforms proposed by Labour e.g. pension age set lower so cover more of the elderly.

10 4. New LiberalismOld style Liberalism not appealing to working class voters – e.g. focus on Ireland, Free Trade and Empire.New Liberal politicians like Lloyd George & Winston Churchill had been impressed by welfare reforms in Germany.New Liberals also wanted to wrest control of the party from Old Liberals who they felt would lose support to Labour and the Conservatives.

11 Analysis-New Liberalism
New Liberal politicians wanted to make a name for themselves. By pressing for reforms like pensions or free school meals they would get noticed by the public and increase their standing in the Liberal Party.New Liberals felt needed to introduce limited welfare reform to help their working class voters who in turn would continue to vote for the Liberal Party.

12 ConclusionAnswer the question first sentence= “Clearly a combination of humanitarian concerns and political motives that led to reforms”.Booth and Rowntree important – why? Sum up main KU & analysis.Go through each of the other motives give main KU point only and analysis.

The beginnings of reform

From the turn of the twentieth century, laissez faire (the policy of non-intervention in relation to social problems) became discredited. The same old problems of poverty and ill-health still remained.

The Liberal reforms of 1906 to 1914 are very important because they show a marked change in government policy from a largely laissez faire approach to a more 'collectivist' approach. The government now accepted that it should have a much larger role and responsibility in helping those sections of society who could not help themselves.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century governments began to take tentative steps towards the provision of basic welfare services, for example, the Education Acts and the public health laws that were passed.

However, many problems still needed to be tackled and it was in the relief from poverty that the government made the least movement from the Poor Law principle. Voluntary action, private charity and self-help were still the watchwords of the day, but local and national government now began to play a more positive part in enabling people to get back on their feet. The real turning point was when the Liberals passed their series of reforms between 1906 and 1914.

Between 1906 and 1914 the Liberal reforms attempted to deal with the problem of poverty. The Liberals focused on four groups in society - the old, the young, the sick and the unemployed. The liberals also introduced reforms to help those employed in low paying jobs and jobs with poor working conditions.

Old age pensions

In 1908, the Liberals introduced old age pensions which became law in 1909. This Act gave pensions of five shillings per week (25 pence in today's money) at the single rate to persons over 70 whose incomes were less than £21 per year. A married couple received seven shillings and sixpence a week. This sum could be collected at the Post Office. A smaller amount was paid to slightly higher earners. People who had an income greater than £31.50 per year received no pension at all. Those who had habitually failed to work or who had been in prison also received nothing.

The major criticism of this Act was that it did not go far enough. The money was not enough to enable people to pay for the barest necessities and, although it helped, it was not the answer to old age poverty. Also, many elderly people needed financial help long before they reached 70 years of age. In fact most died before receiving a pension.

Children's Charter

In 1906, the government allowed local authorities to provide free school meals for poor children. In 1907 school medical inspections began, although it was not until 1912 that free medical treatment was available.

Social reformers blamed poverty for causing crime among the young people. There was also the view that by sending young law breakers to adult prisons they would simply learn how to be better criminals. As such, in 1908 juvenile courts and borstals were set up.

These reforms, including forbidding the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to children under 16 years of age, were given the name 'Children's Charter' because it was believed these measures would guarantee a better life for young people. However, the provision of school meals was not made compulsory until 1914 and researchers found that during school holidays the growth of children slowed and body weight often declined.

Medical inspections did little to solve any problems they uncovered and so it was not until free medical treatment became available in 1912 that the situation could get better. However, education authorities largely ignored the provision of free medical treatment for school children.

Finally, as we know by the standards of today, attempts to protect children from the effects of tobacco and alcohol have met with limited success.

Health insurance

In the early twentieth century a free National Health Service did not yet exist and the poor could not usually afford medical services. To help address this, the Liberal Government introduced the National Insurance Act in 1911.

For the first time, compulsory health insurance was provided for workers earning less than £160 per year. The scheme was contributory. The worker paid fourpence a week, employers paid threepence and the state paid twopence. The scheme provided sickness benefit entitlement of nine shillings (45 pence), free medical treatment and maternity benefit of 30 shillings (£1.50).

Unemployment insurance

The second part of the National Insurance Act dealt with unemployment. Most insured workers were given seven shillings (35 pence) unemployment benefit a week for a maximum of 15 weeks in any year if they became unemployed. This scheme was also contributory - financed through a combination of worker and state contributions to the scheme.

However, this Act only provided for the insured employee and not his family. Also, the Act was meant only to cover temporary unemployment and only applied to seven trades, most of which suffered from seasonal unemployment. When long term unemployment increased after World War I, the system began to break down as the government was taking in less money from workers than it was paying out to the unemployed.

Results

Overall, the Liberal reforms marked a transition point between old laissez-faire attitudes and those of a more collectivist nature. The reforms made only limited inroads into the problem of poverty. The pensions paid were inadequate and the unemployment benefits were limited to only certain trades, and then provided only for the employee and not his family. The government was prepared to intervene to help the poor, but the poor had also to help themselves by making contributions towards their benefits.

Winston Churchill summed up the aim of the Liberals when he said 'If we see a drowning man we do not drag him to the shore. Instead, we provide help to allow him to swim ashore.' In other words, the Liberals tried to provide some help for the poorer sections of society in order that they could help themselves.

Seebohm Rowntree: poverty and reform - part three

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