Success Of The Liberal Reforms Essay

Presentation on theme: "Liberal Reforms A Success?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Liberal Reforms A Success?
Higher History

2 Example Essay Questions
To what extent did the Liberal Reforms improve the lives of the British people?Assess the impact of the Liberal Reforms on the lives of the British people.

3 Theme of EssayThe Liberal Reforms were at best piecemeal – covered a wide range of poverty and were limited in who they helped.However, they were the widest range of reforms by any government at that time and show a change of emphasis away from laissez-faire and towards governments looking after the welfare of their people – it is this change in attitude by which their success must be judged, they began welfare reform.Therefore, key points:1. Very limited reforms.2. But first time widespread welfare reforms were regarded as people’s rights.

4 Content of Essay In your essay you must show:
1. An understanding of the problems Britain faced.2. What the Liberals did – details of legislation passed.3. Strengths and limitations of reforms.

5 5 Big Problems facing Britain 1906
Britain faced many problems caused by poverty at the beginning of the 20th Century, for example:Squalor – Each major town and city e.g. Glasgow, East End London had very poor and overcrowded housing that were filled with disease.Disease – Major epidemics of TB, Scarlet Fever, Polio, Rickets etc swept through the slums, most were caused by poverty.

6 5 Big Problems facing Britain 1906
Want – Poverty was a major problem caused by a society where the working class faced low pay, long hours and lived on the margins( the poverty line) with no room for sickness, death, unemployment etc.Idleness - One of the main causes of poverty were caused by the lack of regular well paid work. Most jobs were seasonal or subject to periods of unemployment, as well as illness etc. If you did not work your family did not eat.

7 5 Big Problems facing Britain 1906
Ignorance – There was compulsory education up to 13 but most schools were crowded and of poor quality. Education for girls was much worse than boysPlease note – little or nothing was done by the Liberal Government to help the problems of squalor, disease and ignorance.

8 Reforms We will study the Liberal Reforms under three headings:
1. Young2. Old3. Workers

9 YOUNG - Children 1906 Education Act (School Meals)
Provided meals for needy children.Compulsory education had shown up the evils of poverty, as children from the slums were too hungry to learn.

10 Good pointsBy 1914, 14 million school meals were being issued per week.This ensured that needy pupils were receiving one nutritious meal per day.Helped to tackle the evil of ‘WANT’, by helping needy children.Helped (slightly) to tackle the problem of ‘IGNORANCE’, as allowed children to learn without the distraction of hunger.

11 Bad points School meals were not made compulsory until 1914.
Pupils only receiving a nutritious meal on school days.

12 YOUNG - Children 1907 Education Act (Medical Inspections)
Medical inspections started at school, school nurses checked for lice, TB, rickets etc.After 1912, education authorities could also provide free medical treatment.

13 Good pointsHelped to identify if pupils had illnesses like TB and rickets.Advice (not treatment) given to parents (although few could act on advice as had no money!).Did establish how widespread diseases caused by poverty were.Therefore, helped to tackle the evil of ‘DISEASE’.

14 Bad points Did little to cure disease.
Education authorities largely ignored the 1907 Act providing for free medical treatment.

15 OLD - Elderly 1908 Old Age Pensions Act Pensions for those 70 years +
Between 1 to 5 shillings per week (5p to 25p)Could be collected at the post office.

16 Good pointsThis was the first time that the government had taken care of the elderly population.This help was given as a right rather than as charity.Therefore, helped to tackle the evil of ‘WANT’.

17 Bad pointsPension age was too high, e.g. life expectancy for working class men in 1900 was 51 (pension at 70)Payment was small – ¼ of average wage.Lots of people were excluded, e.g. for immorality such as being a drunkard, having been in prison etc.

18 WORKERS – Sick and Unemployed
1911 National Insurance Act (Part 1)Introduced compulsory health insurance for workers in certain trades earning less than £160 per year.The slogan was ‘9d for 4d’ – the employee paid 4d, the employer 3d and the state 2d to provide sickness benefit of 9d.

19 1911 National Insurance Act (Part 2)
Compulsory scheme of unemployment insurance for trades badly hit by periodic unemployment e.g. ship building, construction.The worker, employer and the state made weekly contributions – if the worker fell out of work, he got 7 shillings a week(35p) in benefit for up to 15 weeks in any year.

20 WORKERS - smaller ActsIntroduced Labour Exchanges like modern day job centres to let unemployed find jobs- 400 established.1908 Miners 8 hour day – limited time men were forced to work underground1909 Trades Board act supposedly to protect sweat shop workers by fixing minimum wagesShops Act 1911 limited working hours in shops, guaranteed shop worker a ½ day off per week.

21 Good pointsState recognising responsibility to workers – not always the workers fault if they were ‘idle’.Therefore, helping to tackle the evil ‘WANT’.Shops Act, Labour exchanges showed growing move away from Laissez-faire and government responsibilities to workers.

22 Bad pointsHealth insurance only provided for the employee and not his family. Was only 7 shillings for 15 weeks, covered only 7 trades.Unemployment insurance only applied to 7 trades e.g. shipbuilding, construction and not others e.g. farming.

23 Summary – were the reforms successful?
YoungElderlyWorkersAct Good points Bad points Successful?

24 How effective were the Liberal Reforms?
The Liberal Reforms were piecemeal and limited at best and did not solve any of Britain’s social problems at that time.The majority of the reforms were of limited value.Many areas were ignored – there was little done to improve health or education and nothing at all to improve housing.Poor Law and workhouses remained.

25 Some have made exaggerated claims that the Liberal Reforms were the beginnings of the welfare state.
But the reforms were never intended to solve all of Britain’s problems or to set up a complete welfare system.

26 There were however many good points:
It was the first big example of a change in attitude by government away from the strict dogma of laissez-faire.Some help given to the poorest in society – eg. School children.For the first time the rights of certain sections of society to protection was recognised – eg. Elderly.It began the process of welfare reform and took it out of the domain of charitable works.

The beginnings of reform

From the turn of the twentieth century, laissez faire (the policy of non-intervention in relation to social problems) became discredited. The same old problems of poverty and ill-health still remained.

The Liberal reforms of 1906 to 1914 are very important because they show a marked change in government policy from a largely laissez faire approach to a more 'collectivist' approach. The government now accepted that it should have a much larger role and responsibility in helping those sections of society who could not help themselves.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century governments began to take tentative steps towards the provision of basic welfare services, for example, the Education Acts and the public health laws that were passed.

However, many problems still needed to be tackled and it was in the relief from poverty that the government made the least movement from the Poor Law principle. Voluntary action, private charity and self-help were still the watchwords of the day, but local and national government now began to play a more positive part in enabling people to get back on their feet. The real turning point was when the Liberals passed their series of reforms between 1906 and 1914.

Between 1906 and 1914 the Liberal reforms attempted to deal with the problem of poverty. The Liberals focused on four groups in society - the old, the young, the sick and the unemployed. The liberals also introduced reforms to help those employed in low paying jobs and jobs with poor working conditions.

Old age pensions

In 1908, the Liberals introduced old age pensions which became law in 1909. This Act gave pensions of five shillings per week (25 pence in today's money) at the single rate to persons over 70 whose incomes were less than £21 per year. A married couple received seven shillings and sixpence a week. This sum could be collected at the Post Office. A smaller amount was paid to slightly higher earners. People who had an income greater than £31.50 per year received no pension at all. Those who had habitually failed to work or who had been in prison also received nothing.

The major criticism of this Act was that it did not go far enough. The money was not enough to enable people to pay for the barest necessities and, although it helped, it was not the answer to old age poverty. Also, many elderly people needed financial help long before they reached 70 years of age. In fact most died before receiving a pension.

Children's Charter

In 1906, the government allowed local authorities to provide free school meals for poor children. In 1907 school medical inspections began, although it was not until 1912 that free medical treatment was available.

Social reformers blamed poverty for causing crime among the young people. There was also the view that by sending young law breakers to adult prisons they would simply learn how to be better criminals. As such, in 1908 juvenile courts and borstals were set up.

These reforms, including forbidding the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to children under 16 years of age, were given the name 'Children's Charter' because it was believed these measures would guarantee a better life for young people. However, the provision of school meals was not made compulsory until 1914 and researchers found that during school holidays the growth of children slowed and body weight often declined.

Medical inspections did little to solve any problems they uncovered and so it was not until free medical treatment became available in 1912 that the situation could get better. However, education authorities largely ignored the provision of free medical treatment for school children.

Finally, as we know by the standards of today, attempts to protect children from the effects of tobacco and alcohol have met with limited success.

Health insurance

In the early twentieth century a free National Health Service did not yet exist and the poor could not usually afford medical services. To help address this, the Liberal Government introduced the National Insurance Act in 1911.

For the first time, compulsory health insurance was provided for workers earning less than £160 per year. The scheme was contributory. The worker paid fourpence a week, employers paid threepence and the state paid twopence. The scheme provided sickness benefit entitlement of nine shillings (45 pence), free medical treatment and maternity benefit of 30 shillings (£1.50).

Unemployment insurance

The second part of the National Insurance Act dealt with unemployment. Most insured workers were given seven shillings (35 pence) unemployment benefit a week for a maximum of 15 weeks in any year if they became unemployed. This scheme was also contributory - financed through a combination of worker and state contributions to the scheme.

However, this Act only provided for the insured employee and not his family. Also, the Act was meant only to cover temporary unemployment and only applied to seven trades, most of which suffered from seasonal unemployment. When long term unemployment increased after World War I, the system began to break down as the government was taking in less money from workers than it was paying out to the unemployed.


Overall, the Liberal reforms marked a transition point between old laissez-faire attitudes and those of a more collectivist nature. The reforms made only limited inroads into the problem of poverty. The pensions paid were inadequate and the unemployment benefits were limited to only certain trades, and then provided only for the employee and not his family. The government was prepared to intervene to help the poor, but the poor had also to help themselves by making contributions towards their benefits.

Winston Churchill summed up the aim of the Liberals when he said 'If we see a drowning man we do not drag him to the shore. Instead, we provide help to allow him to swim ashore.' In other words, the Liberals tried to provide some help for the poorer sections of society in order that they could help themselves.

Seebohm Rowntree: poverty and reform - part three

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