Why has social reform come about? Discuss with reference to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the period of Liberal Reform 1880-1914, and post-war social reform 1945-50.

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Why has social reform come about? Discuss with reference to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the period of Liberal Reform 1880-1914, and post-war social reform 1945-50.

The question of why has social reform come about has left itself wide open for debate for centuries. In order to examine this question and perhaps come up with an answer, one must first look at the history of social reform and trace it back to it's originating days before moving on to the period of post-war social reform 1945-50, exploring the reasons for the developments and changes of social reform and comparing each period of change. The debate that surrounds social reform must also be examined. The Government ideas that the welfare policy cares for the needy and discourages the sponger stands in juxtaposition to others ideas that social reform was brought in to preserve the inequalities in society, both are fundamental if one is to establish an opinion on the above question.

As far back as Henry the eighth, provisions were in place such as gleaning and tithe as a way of providing for the poor. Elizabeth the first introduced the first poor laws in Britain in 1601 and this system remained for a few hundred years. By the 1800s, Britain was becoming more urbanized, however in 1815 there was a huge slump and depression after the battle of Waterloo. In 1832 a Royal commission was appointed and put into place in 1834. This brought with it the introduction of Jeremy Bentham, "The New Poor Laws" and the Workhouses. Jeremy Bentham stated that he would end poverty and implemented strategies to discourage the sponger, or preserve the already existing inequalities in society, by making the conditions of the workhouse far worse than that of the lowest paid job. He called this "Less Eligibility". Caring for the needy was not paramount, keeping the rates down was paramount and the Government followed a system known as Laissez Faire, which means, "let the market rule". Caring for the poor was seen as a necessity to satisfy a need for social order. The workhouses worked on a deliberate ethos of harshness and brutality.

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act joined together about six parishes into a Union for the administration of the measures to deal with the poor under the national leadership of the Poor Law Commissioners. Several citizens in the parish, usually the wealthy were appointed to run them, they were called the Guardians. The Guardians served ratepayers interests not the paupers, they regarded poverty as the fault of the poor and they supported and carried out harsh treatment of the poor. The social stigma attached to being in the workhouse was so strong that many old people died of shame. Families and couples alike were separated and uniforms were given in exchange for clothes. The letter 'P' was sewn onto the uniforms for pauper (Owston, T. 2000.) The ideas behind the workhouse could be agued for by both sides. There is no question that the workhouse discouraged the sponger as the conditions were so terrible, only the desperate would entertain the idea of surrendering to life in the workhouse, however they certainly did not care for the needy and drove an even deeper wedge through society, thus preserving; if not deepening society's inequalities.
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The years of the Great Stink in the 1840s led to the House of Lords being abandoned due to the smell and between 1848 and 1873, Public Health Acts began to be introduced, with cities competing with each other for the best system. England was the most powerful and richest country in the world in the 1880s and it has been argued that Jack the Ripper who was around at that time, was a great social reformer as he had the power to frighten people (Flaherty T, 2002.). 1899 saw Seebohn Rowntree's study of poverty in York, which ...

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