In what ways did the Second World War highlight important issues of child welfare, and with what outcomes?

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In what ways did the Second World War highlight important issues of child welfare, and with what outcomes?

        The modern welfare state provides such subsidies for the protection and care of children as unemployment benefit, free school meals, maternity pay, housing benefit and state funded education. This range of provisions benefits all children but particularly those who are vulnerable or at the poorer end of society but this has not always been the case. To properly understand the progress that occurred in both public and political attitudes towards child welfare in the years which followed the Second World War it is important to examine the key political developments which took place prior to this and throughout the conflict, alongside the accompanying attitude of British society.

        The welfare state, along with the increasing urge to ensure a quality of living for children in the worst conditions of society has existed in Britain since Elizabethan times. This saw the introduction of the poor laws, with which came the first effort to create a system which could allow impoverished families to maintain a reasonable level of existence, but it is often argued that the actual beginnings of the modern welfare state were established in the early 20th century when David Lloyd George's Liberal government made a series of reforms between the years of 1906 and 1914 (Fraser, 2002). Aside from the introduction of the National Insurance Act of 1911 and pensions for the elderly, these reforms also saw the introduction of free school meals, a subtle but important milestone in the development of societal attitudes regarding the welfare of society's children and the importance of nutrition for the young. It is also important to mention that this became one of many forms of welfare system that had already been in place at that time. Friendly societies, health insurance companies, charitable companies and mutually owned organisations had for many years prior to this provided healthcare and support to people across the country (Nicholas, 2001).

        Another important political factor in the development of early welfare legislation was the realisation that it was important to keep the youth of society healthy in order to have healthy conscripts to the military. During the Boer War it was realised that a lot of the working classes had a substandard quality of health and therefore required more training and medical attention in order to make them into healthy and able soldiers. This situation continued throughout the First and Second World Wars (Fraser, 2002). In the latter specialised camps were formed in order to nourish and prepare for combat those in the poorest of physical health. It was recognised that some kind of subsidy was required in order to keep the lower classes in a state of reasonable health. This situation was alluded to in the slogan ‘a country fit for heroes’ which was published alongside post-World War Two welfare legislation (Nicholas, 2001).
        When trying to illustrate the changes and developments of child welfare issues and the related legislation it is also important to consider the oppositional factors which have stood against such regulation and development taking place. There have been (and still exist) many opponents to the provision of welfare in general, with a variety of arguments against it. Invariably, the majority of these arguments neglect to acknowledge the negative consequences that the removal of these subsidies will have on children and their proper development. Attitudes have existed in right-wing political campaigns for as long as welfare has been around, most of which argue that provision from the state is too generous and ultimately leads to laziness, ignorance and a situation which allows people to benefit from society without contributing to it (Kuhnle, 2000). Other arguments include issues of free-will and that people should want to contribute charitably to such systems rather than be forced to, leading to a resentment towards altruism, and more recently the issue of rising bureaucracy (and therefore cost) of welfare administration (Addison, 1975).

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        Perhaps the most important of all the welfare reform which came out of the Second World War was initiated when Sir William Beveridge (a respected economist) submitted what came to be known as the Beveridge Report, following an enquiry which was set up a year earlier by the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services. The purpose of the report was to investigate social circumstances and examine ways in which the state welfare and benefit system could be managed with greater efficiency (Harris, 1997). The Labour party had entered into a wartime coalition with the Conservative party in 1940 ...

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