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How effective were the Liberal Reforms between 1906 and 1914?

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Introduction

How effective were the Liberal Reforms between 1906 and 1914? Paul Davidson Before the 1900s most politicians thought that the poor had brought on their money problems themselves, and there was no health care, education, social services, unemployment benefit at all. If you were in poverty you would have to find your own way out of it, the government had no involvement in the problems among the poor of Britain. This was widely known as "Self Help". The huge scale of the Liberal party's victory in the 1906 general election guaranteed many new faces among the ranks of Liberal MPs, in favour of change in the field of social welfare. Between the years 1906 and 1914, the Liberals took steps to improve the health standards and the living and working conditions of the lower class. The main areas of people who the new legislation was targeted on was the working class under risk of poverty due to sickness or unemployment, their children and old age pensioners. The effectiveness of Liberal rule on these matters is not clear, as much of the legislation introduced to solve poverty problems, can be argued to be unsuccessful at what it was intended to achieve. The first task undertaken by the new Liberal government was the welfare of children. The issue of children too hungry or generally debilitated was well documented by 1906. By 1911, less than a third of all education authorities were using rates to support school meal provision and it had taken until 1914 for the Board of Education to make such provision compulsory. ...read more.

Middle

Nevertheless, it can be argued that they were very slow to reform, as the first payments were not made until the summer of 1912 for unemployment and the beginning of 1913 for health. The Friendly Societies, industrial insurance companies and doctors would all be affected by the intrusion of the state into this kind of benefit provision. The insurance companies and friendly societies collected millions of pounds a year from working-class families, which may explain why it took so long to negotiate suitable compromises and safeguards with the various companies. The National Insurance Act was in two distinct parts. Part one dealt with health insurance and part two with unemployment insurance. A sickness benefit of 10s per week for 13 weeks (7s 6d for women) and 5s a week for a further 13 weeks there after was the main entitlement. This act was a positive move by the Liberals towards reducing poverty, as due to health levels being so bad at the time many were left sick with no way of receiving money. On the other hand, this Act may not have been very successful due to a number of reasons. The fact that this scheme did not cover hospital treatment increased the risk of poverty. The Act only covered workers and not their families, which meant that there was still a risk of poverty if a member of the family needed medical treatment. ...read more.

Conclusion

They also failed to introduce direct measures to deal with the situation, such as government housing or a National Health Service. Therefore, Liberal legislation was successful on a small scale considering it did not effectively improve the poverty levels of the whole nation. Lastly, it can be argued that the Liberal rule was very successful in terms of the scale of task with which the new government was faced. The fact that the House of Lords was mainly Conservative meant that the Liberal legislation programme was regularly opposed, because Conservatives regarded Liberal policies as confiscation to property rights and a threat to any idea of individual responsibility. This can justify the amount of time taken to introduce various laws, such as the National Insurance Act and the Pensions Act. The amount of people below the poverty line at the time was estimated at being as high as one third of the population. A view that no other government could have dealt with the situation of poverty any more effectively at that time adds to the theory that the Liberals were as successful as they could have been under the circumstances. Liberal legislation between the years of 1906 to 1914 laid the foundations of a welfare state. The time spent in power may not have been long enough for the Liberal reform to make a clear improvement to the poverty situation due to the social state of the nation being so bad. This view shows that the Liberals were very successful at dealing with the situation if considering the magnitude of task they undertook. ...read more.

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