The Liberal reforms

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Poverty 1906

  • 27% of people in York lived bellow the poverty line.
  • Sometimes a whoe family lived in one room and many people did not have enough to eat.
  • Medical help had to be paid for - many people ended up going to a workhouse.
  • No government help.

Children, old people, unemployed and workers who became sick needed the most help. Social reformers like Seebohm Rowntree and Charles Booth studied poverty and showed that it was usually not a result of being lazy or careless with money.As a result attitudes towards the poor became more sympathetic. Key individuals like Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were influenced by the reforms and used their influence within the government.

The Boer war showed how unhealthy many young men were - often because of their poor living onditions and malnurrishment.Britain needed men to be fit enough to fight,

The government was concerned about being overtaken by the USA and Germany in industry. Germany had a good welfare system and its workers were healthier and better educated than British workers.Moreover working men had the vote and the Liberals were concerned about losing votes to the socialists.

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The reforms


  • 1906 - free school meals could be provided by local councils
  • 1907 - school medical service - checks but no medication had to be provided
  • 1908 - Children and young persons at - protected children against violence and cruelty
  • 1912 - school clinics - councils could provide medical treatement

The Old:

  • 1908 - Old Age Pensions
    • over 70 years old
    • 5s per week for a single person
    • 7s 6d for a couple

The Sick:

  • 1911 - National Insurance Act - sickness benefit
    • All lower paid workers had to join
    • Workers had to pay 4d a week to the government
    • Employers had to pay 3d and the government 2d     
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The Reforms (Continued)

  • If a worker was off sick they got sick pay from the government
  • They got 10s per week for 13 weeks and 5s per week for the next 13 weeks in any one year

The Unemployed:

  • 1909 - Government run Labour exchanges were introduced to help people find jobs
  • 1911 - National Insurance Act - Unemployment Benefit
    • Open to men in insecure jobs
    • Workers had to pay 2d a week to the government 
    • When unemployed, people got 7s 6d per week for up to 15 weeks in any one year from the government

How were the reforms paid for?

  • 1909 - 'People's Budget' increased taxes on rich to pay for welfare reforms
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Did the reforms work?


  • Government accepted that welfare was their responsibility
  • Helped bring about a change in attitude towards the poor
  • Marked a milestone in care for the poor and elderly and laid foundations for Welfare State of 1945.
  • The help given did make a difference to those that received it


  • Reforms did not help everybody
  • Children - provision varied too much - optional for local authorities to provide many things
  • Old - pensions were very small and many did not qalify
  • Sick - no health care for families - not a comprehensive system
  • Unemployed -  benefit was not enough to feed a family - only certain trades were covered
  • Old poor law and workhouses continued for another 20 years
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Reactions to the reforms

  • Conservatives opposed the cost of reforms - said the state would reduces workers' independance and hard work
  • Doctors not sure about how health insurance would affect them
  • Some workers  resented deuctions from their wages
  • Socialists said that the government should do more.
  • Rich resented having to pay more tax to pay for welfare reforms - saw Lloyd George as a robber.
  • House of Lords tried to stop reforrms going through - government forced the reforms throguh by taking away some of their power. Some people disliked the government increasing its power like this
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