How and Why Did the Liberal Government Help the Poor?


Britain at the start of the 20th Century

  • contrasts of rich and poor, town and country
  • traditional boundaries were being blurred
  • more women wanted to work
  • working people wanted to be involved in decision making 
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Life for the Poor- Start of 20th Century

  • had to depend on private charities or on the state-established system for poor relief for help in bad times


  • help in form of money, clothes or food
  • sometimes provided accomodation for the elderly and destitute
  • some specifically for children

The Poor Law:

  • most dreaded type of help
  • workhouses- provided food or shelter for the poor however the conditions were awful
  • if you were to accept relief you were labelled as a pauper- shame and disgrace
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Reasons why the Liberals introduced reforms to hel

Social Investigators:

  • Seebohm Rowntree --> found that 28% of the people in York were living in poverty and that there were two types of poverty- Primary and Secondary
  • Charles Booth --> nearly 31% of Londoners were living below the 'poverty line'. This meant they did not have enough money for food, shelter or clothing

Changing Attitudes:

  • Progressive Liberalism --> social reform programme, young new liberals were convinced by the social investigations
  • Rise of the Labour Party --> pledged to get better working and living conditions for the working class- competition
  • National Efficiency & Boer War --> young men volunteered to fight however thousands were rejected as unfit as they were malnourished. The british work force hadn't got the strength or stamina to compete 
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Measures taken to help children

School Meals Act:

  • provide free meals for children from the poorest families
  • provided one good meal a day for children in poverty
  • however, not every child was eligible for a free school meal- seen as unfair/equal

School Medical Service:

  • compulsory medical checks
  • free
  • had to pay for any treatment required

Children's Act 1908:

  • protected against cruelty
  • children's homes were to be registered and inspected
  • juvenille courts to be set up
  • children under 14 not allowed in pubs
  • no cigarettes sold to under 16's
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Measures taken to help the elderly

Old Age Pensions Act 1908:

  • gave weekly pensions from government funds to everyone over 70
  • allowed the elderly to afford daily food etc. instead of living in poverty
  • 70 was a very old age and not many people actually lived to this age
  • ^it only applied to certain people 
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Measures taken to help the unemployed and sick

Labour Exchanges Act 1909:

  • unemployed workers could go to a labour exchange to look for work
  • it was a very efficient way of finding work
  • people were still unemployed- it did not increase chances of employment

National Insurance Act 1911:

  • prevent poverty resulting from illnesses, people had to insure themselves against sickness and they got paid if they were to become ill
  • wouldn't be forced to live in poverty when ill- save up money
  • the pay decreases if you're ill for a long period of time

National Insurance Act Part II 1912:

  • prevent poverty resulting from unemployment by insuring workers against periods when they were out of work
  • allowed people to not live in poverty while unemployed- better oportunities
  • the middle and upper class people believed this would make people lazy and was unfair 
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