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'How far had the British Government abandoned the policy of laissez-faire by 1914?'

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Introduction

Essay 2 Lauren Ford 5R2 'How far had the British Government abandoned the policy of laissez-faire by 1914?' 100 years ago 3/4 of the population in Britain were merely working class, 1/3 were living in severe poverty. Life expectancy was short and infant mortality rates were absurd, in Scotland 13 out of every 100 babies would die before they reached the age of one. The government and many rich, prosperous people believed in 'Self help not State help', many possessed the saying of 'heaven helps those who help themselves.' Overall, in their opinion it was up to the individuals to look after themselves. Many things contributed to the Government finally realising that Britain was at a stage where state intervention was greatly needed. The colossal divide in social classes in the 1800s to early 1900s resulting in many people falling in to great poverty highlighting the lack of efficiency in the Governments laissez-faire ideology. The findings of Booth and Rowntree lead to a national uproar at the high number of people in Britain living without a decent house and enough money to feed a family for a week. By the year 1914, the British Government had abandoned the policy of laissez-faire to a certain extent. ...read more.

Middle

On the other boat, help was needed for the unemployed and so in 1911 the National Insurance Act was passed. This was the most radical reform of all and was a major break through in social reform. It worked in two parts; (i) the sickness insurance benefits, which entitled workers to 10s. per week for a period of up to 26 weeks for health reasons and medical treatment for free from a selected doctor. Money to provide this service to workers came from 4d a week from workers, 3d a week from employers and 2d a week from the state. So really the majority of money wasn't being provided by the state! (ii) The unemployment benefits- a certain amount of weeks had to be worked before you could receive any benefits, again you could only claim for up to 26 weeks and those cyclical workers e.g. house builders were not covered because it was classed as seasonal work. At this stage the friendly societies, which provided help for the poor, were almost put out of business buy the N.I Acts. Although, these friendly societies did eventually recover to help those workers who were not covered by the government's national insurance policy. ...read more.

Conclusion

This opposition was the Conservative Party and the upper class that didn't see a problem with laissez-faire as the problem of poverty and ill health did not really ever involve them, and if it did they could afford the doctors bills. The upper classes were also basically excluded from the liberal reforms because most of the policies introduced did not effect their lifestyle. To conclude, the British Government had only abandoned the laissez-faire policy by 1914 to a certain extent. By 1914, I feel that the Liberals had created a series of stepping-stones and foundations on which they could eventually build up a full welfare state. They had introduced various acts that brought state help along to the children, the elderly, the employed, the unemployed, the sick and the needy. However the state help provided by the British Government did not cover everyone in the country, people were excluded from the benefits (the prosperous) and therefore were still living by the old laissez-faire policy. The acts and policies introduced although bringing along various good points and benefits did come with a variety of problems that needed to be solved along with budget problems. And so, overall the British government still had various problems and issues to resolve before they could fully abandon the laissez-faire policy and take on Lloyd George's long needed ideological policy of 'The Welfare State.' ...read more.

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