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Liberal reforms

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Introduction

The beginnings of reform From the turn of the 20th century, laissez faire (the policy of non-intervention in relation to social problems) became discredited. The same old problems of poverty and ill-health still remained. The Liberal reforms of 1906 to 1914 are very important because they show a marked change in government policy from a largely laissez faire approach to a more 'collectivist' approach. The government now accepted that it should have a much larger role and responsibility in helping those sections of society who could not help themselves. In the latter part of the nineteenth century governments began to take tentative steps towards the provision of basic welfare services, for example, the Education Acts and the public health laws that were passed. However, many problems still needed to be tackled and it was in the relief from poverty that the government made the least movement from the Poor Law principle. Voluntary action, private charity and self-help were still the watchwords of the day, but local and national government now began to play a more positive part in enabling people to get back on their feet. ...read more.

Middle

Also, many elderly people needed financial help long before they reached 70 years of age. In fact most died before receiving a pension. 'Children's Charter' In 1906 the government allowed local authorities to provide free school meals for poor children. In 1907 school medical inspections began, although it was not until 1912 that free medical treatment was available. Social reformers blamed poverty for causing crime among the young people. There was also the view that by sending young law breakers to adult prisons they would simply learn how to be better criminals. As such, in 1908 juvenile courts and borstals were set up. These reforms, including forbidding the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to children under 16 years of age, were given the name 'Children's Charter' because it was believed these measures would guarantee a better life for young people. However, the provision of school meals was not made compulsory until 1914 and researchers found that during school holidays the growth of children slowed and body weight often declined. Medical inspections did little to solve any problems they uncovered and so it was not until free medical treatment became available in 1912 that the situation could get better. ...read more.

Conclusion

Also, the Act was meant only to cover temporary unemployment and only applied to seven trades, most of which suffered from seasonal unemployment. When long term unemployment increased after World War I, the system began to break down as the government was taking in less money from workers than it was paying out to the unemployed. Results Overall, the Liberal reforms marked a transition point between old laissez-faire attitudes and those of a more collectivist nature. The reforms made only limited inroads into the problem of poverty. The pensions paid were inadequate and the unemployment benefits were limited to only certain trades, and then provided only for the employee and not his family. The government was prepared to intervene to help the poor, but the poor had also to help themselves by making contributions towards their benefits. Winston Churchill summed up the aim of the Liberals when he said 'If we see a drowning man we do not drag him to the shore. Instead, we provide help to allow him to swim ashore.' In other words, the Liberals tried to provide some help for the poorer sections of society in order that they could help themselves. ...read more.

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