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Why did the liberal government introduce a program of social reforms 1906?

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During the late nineteenth century the British government, under the Liberal party, acted according to the principle of laissez faire. Individuals were solely responsible for their own lives and welfare. The government did not accept responsibility for the poverty and hardship that existed among its citizens. A popular point of view at the time was that poverty was caused by idleness, drunkenness and other such moral weaknesses on the part of the working classes. The poor were seen by the wealthy as an unfortunate but inevitable part of society. There were no old age pensions, unemployment benefits or family allowances. If the main wage-earner died or could not work, a whole family could be plunged into terrible poverty. The state would not interfere. During this period, the accepted role of the government was very limited. It was simply expected to: Maintain law and order Protect the country from invasion Before the liberals (1906) the help available to the poor was from parishes and workhouses however when the Poor Law Act of 1834 was introduced most of the act was decreed that external relief for the poor was to be stopped within two years, leaving these unfortunates with the choice of the workhouse or starvation. ...read more.


The first was Charles Booth, a ship-owner from Liverpool who undertook seventeen years' worth of work investigating the extent of poverty in London. The report found that over 30% of the population of London was living below an acceptable standard. The work of the second, Seebohm Rowntree, found that in York 28% of the population was living with less means than to sustain "merely physical activity". That is, the minimum money required for food, water, clothing, light, and to pay the rent. The opinion of the country was gradually changing; evolving from the established ideas of self-reliance and moving towards a acceptance of state assistance. Though these were not the ideals that won the Liberals under Campbell Bannerman the election in 1906 - they were still very much for the notion of "Old Liberalism", maintaining the belief in personal freedom. The two years Bannerman spent as prime minister reflected this. Independently of each other, the two wealthy businessmen, Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree, sponsored major investigations into the extent and causes of poverty in British cities. Their findings agreed on two key points: * up to 30% of the population of the cities were living in or below poverty levels * The conditions were such that people could not pull themselves out of poverty by their own actions alone. ...read more.


The liberals introduced many changes even though they had a huge amount of opposition mainly from the rich they embarked on the following programmes soon after they were elected to government: 1906 School Meals 1907 School Medical Inspections and Dental Checks 1908 The Children's Act 1908 Old Age Pensions .1909 Labor Exchanges 1909 and 1913 Trade Boards 1911 The National Insurance Act Workers received unemployment benefit of 30 pence for 15 weeks a year, AND sickness benefit of 50 pence for 26 weeks a year. Workers also got free medical treatment and medicines. In conclusion, there are two views on how successful the Liberals were in dealing with the problems of poverty and need. Firstly, there is a view that legislation was filled with 'holes' causing huge numbers of exclusions to promising schemes from the government, which resulted in an improvement of a reduced size. The government did not introduce laws to deal with the poor, but to in fact to prevent more poverty, as social security for the working class was made more possible mainly through contributions from the working class. Lastly the liberal government embarked on a programme of social reforms and was successful in winning the votes from the poor whom they promised many changes which were effective and helped the majority of the population. This 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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