Britain at the start of 20th Century
- Britain had largest empire (ruled over 25% of the world)
- Was the world's leading industrial trading nation
- 30% of working class population did not share in prosperity
Attitudes towards Poverty
- Was the responsibility of the poor~ due to their laziness and fecklessness
- "Laisez faire" government (self help) took no action
- Only help available was: work houses (like a prision), charities (such as Dr Barnardos and salvation army) and begging.
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Why were reforms introduced?
- Seeborn Rowntree (York) and Charles Booth (London) (social investigators) found that 1/3 of York and London lived in poverty due to: low wages and few opportunities.
- Progressive Liberalism- the belief that governments should get involved
- Political concerns- Working class men gained the right to vote, and the rise of the Labour Party (made up of socialist unions) meant that they were likely to win the general election: they called for pensions and benefits and gained 29 seats in 1906 elections.
- Nationalist Concerns- 40% of volunteers of Boer War were deemed unfit due to malnutrition. Meaning that Britain were not physically strong enough for wars and incase empire attacked. Concerns about being able to compete with USA and Germany.
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Measures taken by Liberals- Children
- School meals Act (1906)- local autorities were given the power to provide free school meals
- School medical Checks (1907)- gave local authorities the power to provide free medical checks in school (this was before the NHS)
- Children's Act (1908)- gave children "protected" status, so they could not undergo domestic violence and children courts and homes were set up.
- By 1914 150,000 children were getting one decent meal -a- day but it wasn't compulsory so some (around 50%) of councils did not provide free school meals in order to save money.
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Measures taken by Liberals- Elderly
- Old Age Pension Act (1908)- Gave people over 70 if they were on low income.
- Kept many Old people out of work houses but was refused to people who had never worked before or been in prision in the last 10 years
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Measures taken by Liberals- Unemployed
- Labour Exchange Act (1909)- People could register and look for work.
- National insurace Act (1911)- protected finaces if lost job due to illness: Government, emloyer and employee contribute and if employee falls ill they recieve sick pay for 13 weeks.
- National Insurance Act (1912)- extended previous act to provide the poor with unempoyment insurance.
- By 1914 1 million people were being employed through labour exchange, but, these were temporary or seasonal jobs.
- National insurence allowed people to survive during hard times but people had to make contributions out of their wages and only applied to worker not their famillies
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Reactions to Reforms
- Conservatives accused liberals of creating a "nanny state"
- Many people believed that government help encouraged laziness.
- Some poor people resented deductions from their pay (national insurance).
- Labour party believed that reforms did not go far enough.
- David Lloyd George (chancellor of Exchequer) believed that upper classes should pay for reforms. 1909 people's budget - rich had to pay higher taxes.
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