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How radically was Welfare Provision tackled between 1906 - 1914?

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Introduction

How radically was Welfare Provision tackled between 1906 - 1914? The years leading up to 1906 had seen the demise of the Conservative Party and the rise of the Liberals. In 1906, the Liberals won a landslide victory in the elections and Henry Campbell-Bannerman became Prime Minister. Recent times had also seen a change in the Liberal Party's thinking, from the old Gladstonian ideals of laissez-faire, self-help and retrenchment, to the New Liberalism ideals of interventionism, helping those who couldn't help themselves. This resulted in a series of social reforms being implemented in the years from 1906 to 1914, designed to improve the lives of the less fortunate in Britain. For children in Britain, much was done to provide for them. The 1906 Education Act allowed LEA's to provide free school meals for everyone, while in 1907 LEA's were forced to provide free medical inspection for all pupils. This meant that the school children were kept healthy and so able to work to the best of their ability. ...read more.

Middle

Free medical treatment and medicine was also provided. In addition, the Worker's Compensation Act of 1906 forced employers to compensate those injured at work. In 1909, William Beveridge set up a Labour Exchanges scheme, which provided the unemployed with work. Part II of the National Insurance Act added to the assistance given to those out work by providing an unemployment benefit, which was once again a contributory scheme with the worker, employer and government all contributing. In 1906, the Taff Vale decision was reversed and in 1908, miner's hours were restricted to eight and a half per day. In 1909, the Trade Boards Act provided protection for exploited workers in sweated labour. We can see that in these reforms the New Liberal values had definitely replaced the Gladstonian Liberal ones, as such levels of state intervention had never been seen before. The reverse of this however could also be true, and Pugh argues that really the government hadn't moved on from old Victorian values. He says that 'the 1911 National Insurance Act reflected Victorian self-help traditions' and so it wasn't radical at all. ...read more.

Conclusion

With the rise of the Labour Party, they needed to attract as much support as possible, and they hoped that the reforms would please both the middle and working classes. We can see that between 1906 and 1908 not much legislation was introduced, but the rate sped up considerably after 1908 when Lloyd George and Churchill took up more prominent positions in parliament. After 1911's National Insurance Act the impetus was relaxed as if Churchill and Lloyd George had achieved their goals and didn't want to take it any further. So, in fact it could be thought that the reforms were just a conservative response to a more radical left. In my opinion, the reforms were radical in the sense that the government had acknowledged that there was a problem and they started to do something about it, and were able to change people's lives. However, they were only small steps to begin with, laying the foundations for a welfare state, making sure all the necessary measures had been taken. As Churchill said, they didn't want to take the 'toiler to dry land, but just strap a lifebelt around them'. Phil Harford ...read more.

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