How effectively did the Liberals help children, the old and the unemployed?

In this essay I am going to state how effectively the Liberals helped children, the old and the unemployed in the early nineteen hundreds - How effectively did the Liberals help children, the old and the unemployed? introduction. Help was needed for these particular groups of people because when one member of the family could not work, then the whole family was affected; children became malnourished, and the old, the unemployed and the sick could not support their families with any money to even afford the basic essentials needed to survive. Rowntree’s research in York and Booth’s research in London proved that these people needed help, the children in particular.

Rowntree’s findings showed 10% of the people in York lived in primary poverty and 18% in secondary poverty. Rowntree observed families missing meals as they had to spend the money for food on children’s clothing, this is how children and adults became malnourished. Before the Liberals took notice of the children, a number of charities offered help to children, but the scale of the problem was too large and it just resulted in orphans being put into workhouses where they had to work all day in cramped conditions, only being rewarded with very basic, cheap meals.

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As the beginning of the nineteen hundreds progressed the Liberals began to notice that children were in need of desperate help so they started to introduce reforms. They began with the 1906 Free School Meals Act, followed by the 1907 School Medical Inspectors, then the 1908 Children and Young Persons Act and finally the 1912 School Clinics. The 1906 Free School Meals Act was welcomed, it allowed the local authorities to provide free school meals, by 1914, 14 million children were receiving free school meals.

Although not all children were blessed with free school meals everyday because it was not compulsory for the authorities to serve the meals so, by 1914 only half of the local authorities were providing the meals. Luckily it became compulsory in 1914 but, it did take the Liberals eight long years to realise they needed to make the meals compulsory otherwise the act would not be truly effective. When the 1907 School Medical Inspectors act was brought into place instead of it not being compulsory like the school meals, every local authority was made to set up a school medical service.

The only downside to the scheme was that the inspectors were not permitted to give treatment, so poverty stricken children were being made aware of their very ill health but there was nothing they could do to make them better, as a result of this the 1912 School Clinics were very well embraced. The school clinics ensured all pupils were given treatment for the illnesses they possessed. The medical did sometimes vary across the country as the local authorities were left to make the measures work.

The 1908 Children and Young Persons Act was well received as children were granted with special status as protected persons. Parents could be prosecuted for neglect and it was also made illegal to insure a child’s life. Children’s homes had to be registered under this act and children were also given their own young offenders institutions to be held in rather than going to normal adult prisons where inmates could lead young offenders astray. This act was also the start of not being allowed to sell tobacco and alcohol to under 16’s.

Before help was given to the elderly by Liberal reforms, they received help from family members, charities or if this was not possible they were sent to the workhouses. The 1908 Pensions Act was a welcome relief to the poor however the wealthy people did not agree with the pensions act. Pensions insured a person over 70 with no other income could receive a total of 5 shillings a week. The pension was good because it was non-contributory which meant that the elderly did not have to put money in to get it, by 1914 there were almost 1 million claimants.

Even though the Pensions Act was passed in 1908 it did not come into effect until January 1909. There were a lot of terms and conditions for the pension; people earning ?31per year were not eligible for the pension, also widows and families were not paid pensions and you had to have lived in Britain for 20 years to receive it. Although the poor appreciated the pension, it was not enough to live on, Rowntree’s research showed that you needed 21 shillings 8 pence to live on and the pension was only providing 5 shillings.

The elderly liked the pension because it was better than having nothing whereas the wealthy people did not like the pension because they thought the poor would rely on it and become lazy. The wealthy also thought Britain would not appear to have their own independent characters anymore. Help given to the unemployed/underemployed and the sick were given labour exchanges; the act came into effect in 1909. Workers had to sign onto registers when they were unemployed. By 1913, the labour exchanges were putting 3000 people into jobs every day and by 1914 4000 people every day.

Employers from companies or factories did not have to sign up. A limitation of this reform was that workers did not always get a job from this scheme. The 1911 National insurance Act (Part 1) made workers in a low paid job; earning under ?160 sign up. The maternity benefit meant that women had to wait 4 weeks since they had, had their child to go back to work. Workers received up to 26 weeks of sick pay at 10 shillings. Free medical was only for the worker and not for the whole family.

The National Insurance Act (Part 1) did not solve most problems, medical care was only 26 weeks and if you were severely sick then 26 weeks off would not necessarily mean you recovered in that period of time, also 10 shillings was not enough money to support a family. Many industries were not covered, this was done deliberately because they thought not many people would be able to sign up, so they would not have to give out that much money. Lastly the National Insurance Act (Part 2) came into effect. In certain trades such as ship building you could receive only 7s for 15 weeks per year when you were unemployed if you payed in 2?d per week.

There were weekly contributions from the employee, employer and government this way. Yet again with this act they did not provide enough, although this was done deliberately to encourage saving. With this act you also had to be registered at labour exchange in order to get the benefit. To conclude, I think the sick and unemployed/underemployed were given the least help because the reforms that were put into place to help them were full of terms and conditions; I feel this slightly defeated the goal of trying to help these vulnerable people.

I think the group that needed the most help were the children because they did not cause poverty for themselves it was thrust upon them as they were born into it and I feel they rightly got the most help. Four acts and reforms were put in place for children and after adjustment they worked very successfully. I am also glad the elderly were happy with their pensions but I do still feel the sick and unemployed/underemployed deserved more help.

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