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What prompted the Welfare Reforms of the Liberal Government between 1906-1914?

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Introduction

What prompted the Welfare Reforms of the Liberal Government between 1906-1914? In the period of 1906-1914, social reform acts were past in parliament by the Liberal government under Herbert Asquith PM, Lloyd-George MP and Winston Churchill MP. These acts laid the foundations for a basic welfare state to which our current welfare state was built up from. The acts provided basic support for mothers and children, the old, sick and the unemployed. These changes have been considered very radical considering they took place in Victorian England. There are many issues to examine when asking the question of what prompted the Welfare Reform Acts of the Liberal Government. Prior to the 1900s, the general consensus on impoverished people was that they were in poverty because they were lazy and hence worthless. People did not seem eager for social reform to help the poor people because they were regarded as having got themselves into their situation through their own fault and hence could get themselves out of it. However, shortly before the turn of the century and immediately after it, new ideology on how people came to be poor was released. For example, Charles Booth's 'Life and Labour of People in London' and Seebohm Rowntree's 'Poverty and a Study of Town Life' were published in this era. ...read more.

Middle

New Liberalism wanted to establish a basic living standard for everyone. "...promote measures for ameliorating conditions of life for the multitude." Lloyd- George. This meant that social reform was necessary, to make sure everyone could at least secure themselves a minimum standard of living. Winston Churchill declared he wished to 'strap a lifebelt around them'; he wanted to make sure no one was sinking too far below the poverty line. Therefore, the New Liberalist desires for a national living standard meant a need for Welfare Reform. Hence, New Liberalism was a reason that prompted Welfare Reform. However, the New Liberalism was not as important catalyst as the changing attitudes towards poverty. Without the changing attitudes and ideology, New Liberalism would never have been born, so the ideology was the most important first cause. The National efficiency of England was falling low. Although Britain was the leading nation, Germany, the USA and Japan were threatening its place. Britain's' primacy was seen as threatened economically and militantly. The working class recruits in the Boer War suffered severe health problems and affected their efficiency. The workers in factories also suffered from ill health and affected productivity. "...the country that spent 250 million to avenge an insult levelled to her pride by an old Dutch farmer is not ashamed to see her children walking the streets hungry and in rags." ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore, social reform was necessary to counteract the development of the labour party, to try and prove to the nation that they need not change party because the Liberal's were reforming to meet the changing demands in society instead. The Trade Unionists were funding the Labour party and supported them demonstratively also. The Liberals felt that if they did not act for reform, the Trade Unions would campaign for Labour and hence give Labour more publicity and chance to increase their electorate support. Therefore, the founding of the Labour party put considerable pressure on the Liberal government to act. They were threatened by them, and hence, the founding of the labour party was more of an issue than the national efficiency argument as they were more likely to lose votes to the labour party because of not reforming than they were to lose votes because of low national efficiency. In conclusion, the Welfare Reforms came about because of changing ideology and the founding of the Labour party, which promised more action on the growing awareness of poverty and exclusion of the working classes from political representation. The reforms were helped along the way by changing Liberal ideas and humanitarian concerned leaders, but perhaps these reasons were simply a political response to changing ideology and knowledge that reform was necessary to please the majority of the electorate. Ruth Naughton-Doe ...read more.

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