Charles Booth and the Poverty Line
Charles was born into a wealthy family and moved to London. Whilst there, he refused to accept the officialstatistics that 25% of the population was living in poverty.
Over a period of 17 years, he set up hisinvestigation on the living conditions, income and spending of over 4000 people.
He found that nearly 31% of Londoners were living below the 'Poverty Line' i.e they did not have the money tobuy enough food, shelter and clothing.
Seebohm Rowntree and Primary and Secondary Poverty
Rowntree was interested in Booth's fitand wanted to seeif the same could be said about New York. He divided poverty into two kinds:
Primary Poverty= No matter how hard the family work they would neverearn enough to provide themselves with adequate food, shelter and clothing.
Secondary Poverty= These families could just about feed, clothe and shelter themselves. They were living on the edge.
The Poor Law/Majority Report
The Majority report was a report published by the Royal Comission on the Poor Laws Published in 1909.
The Royal Commission on the Poor Laws was a group set up to work out the best way to relieve the poor. The Commission was made up of members of the Charity Organisation Society, as well as Local Government Boards and Trade Unions, as well as social researchers such as Charles Booth.
Findings of the report
- The origins of poverty were moral factors
- The Poor Law should remain
- Boards of Guardians provided too much outdoor relief
- Able-bodied poor were not deterred from seeking relief because of mixed workhouses.
Why did Poverty Become a Political Issue?
- The research made By Booth and Rowntree on the poor were read by thousands of people, including people in a position of power, such as the young Winston Churchill.
- The Boer War in 1899. As many of 2/3 of the volunteers were turned down because they failedthe army medical examinations.
- Competition from the Conservative Party, who introduced the Education Act, and this showed that the Conservatives were trying to help the poor.
- Competition from the Labour Party, who pledged to help get better living conditions for working people as well as a fairer distribution of Britain's wealth.
- Many younger Liberals had a genuine humanitarian desire to help poor people. They were challenging traditional ideas that people should work out their own problems.
How did the Liberals Help Children?
Free school means- 1909. Local councils were given the power to provide free school meals for the poorest families. By 1914 over 150,000 children were having free meals once a day, every day. But they had to be paid for by local councils and were not compulsory so many councils did not introduce them.
School Medical Inspections- 1907. Doctors and Nurses visited schools to give children compulsory free medical checks and recommended any needed treatment. Children were checked and parents informed if any treatment was necessary. The checks were free but the treatment was not, so manychildren were not actually treated.
Children's Act- 1908. Children became protected people, children's homes were inspected, juvenile courts were set up, cruelty was punnished. Parents could be prosecuted for cruelty against children. Children gained better treatment.
School clinics- 1912. Network of school clinics were set up which provided free medical treatment for children. This was necassary as many parents could not afford the treatment that the doctors wanted to give their children. But the standard of care given varied depending on the council which one lived in.
How Did the Liberals Help the Sick, Unemployed and
The Labour Exchange Act- 1909. A national string of labour exchanges was set up. Unemployed workers could go to a labour exchangeto look for a job instead of having to tramp from workplace to workplace to find work. It was much more efficient.
The National Insurance Act- 1911. This setup an insurance that aimed to prevent poverty resulting from illness. In the beginning around 10 million men and 4 million women were covered. Workers were helped in periods when they were ill. Workers gained free medical treatment. Only workers were covered and not their dependants. Workers had topay for their already low wages towards it.
The Pensions Act- 1908. Gave weakly pensions from government funds to the elderly. The promise to introduce the pensions was made in the 1908 budget and became law the following year. It kept some old people out of the workhouse. But only around 1/2 million elderly people qualified. Because it was only for people who were over 70/had an income of less than £21 a year/had been a British citizen for 20+ years/had not been in prison 10 years before/could prove they had tried to find work all their life. The rich were against this as they were taxed to fund the budget which paid for the Old Age Pension Act.
How Effective were the Reforms?
The two major Liberal reforms, old age pensions and national insurance, were quite limited. They did not help everyone, nor were they intended to.
The pension was limited to the over-70's and to peoplewho had been British citizens for more than 20 years.
National Insurance was limited to the person who made the payment and did not cover their family members.