The need to reform
The only help available for very poor people was workhouse run by local councils
- long hours and brutal conditions for basic food and lodging.
- Many people saw it as the end of all self respect and preffered to starve.
- only option for many elderly people was to go to the workhouse.
Housing in poor areas was damp, cold and didn't have proper sewage systems. It was easy to get ill in these conditions and being ill meant missing work and possibly losing your job.
Many couldn't afford medicine or doctors.
Many children had to go to work from a young age which meant that they missed out on a good education.
Large numbers of people couldn't afford to eat properly, this lead to over half the men recruited to fight in the Boer War to be malnourished.
The need to reform
Not everybody believed that poverty in Britain was that bad but then two reports said that poverty was serious and that it affected many people:
1) Seebohm Rowntree did a survey of living conditions and found that 28% of people in York were so poor that they couldn't afford basic food and housing.
2) Charles Booth also did a survey of Londons poverty and found that 30% were living in severe poverty. His report also showed that it was sometimes impossible for people to find work, however hard they tried. He also showed that the wages for some jobs were so low that they weren't enought to support a family.
There was no way Britain could put a third of the population into the workhouse and so they needed a new approach to dealing with poverty.
1)Writers described how poor people lived in their books and said that the poor members of the society needed government help.
2) People in health and medicine said the government should get more involved in health issues.
3) Socialists argued that wealth should be more equally spread between working people, and the rich.
The Liberal Reforms
1906- School Meals Act - Workmens Compensation Act
1907- Free medical inspections
1908- Childrens Charter - Old Age Pensions Act
1909- Trade Board Act - Labour Exchange Act
1911- National Insurance Act Part 1
1912- National Insurance Act Part 2 - Free Medical Treatment
Old Age Pension Act
- The pension was for people over 70 on low incomes
- Non- contributory- paid through ordinary taxes
- In the 1908, £1 200 000 was set aside to pay for pensions
- Single people with an income of less than £21 per year got 5s per week. Married couples with an income of less than £21 per year got 7s 6d per week.
- Anyone with an income between £21 and £31 per year got a smaller pension
- People with an income of over £31 didn't get a pension at all.
- The first pension ever was paid on the 1st of January 1909.