Welfare Reforms

The New Labour Government came in to power in a ‘Landslide’ election victory. The Government was led by Clement Atlee and introduced reforms. The reforms were in Social Security, Health, Housing, Education and Employment. Under the Social Security reform they introduced the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946, National Insurance Act 1946 and the National Assistance Act 1948.

They were a lot of criticism with the social security reform which included, Benefit levels were fixed for 5 years but inflation reduced their value, Benefits were only 19% of the average industrial wage and below subsistence level, many people were forced into applying for National Assistance, the system was a marked improvement but poverty was not eliminated. The Health Reform introduced the NHS act in 1946 but didn’t come into play until 1948. Aneruin Bevan the health minister helped get the act through Parliament.

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Doctors feared that they would have to give up their private practices. The government allowed the consultants to keep their private practices but only work on a part-time basis. The doctors were also given money for each patient they had in their practice. The NHS provided free medical, dental and optical treatment. The NHS prescriptions rose from 7 to 13. 5 million between 1945-1948 because people kept going to the NHS since it was free. The main problem was funding the NHS through tax.

In 1950 the NHS was costing ?358 million a year and the Government introduced charges for spectacle and dental treatment. Plans for new hospitals and health centres were shelved and Birch said that the NHS was ‘the single greatest achievement in the story of the welfare state’. The Education reform meant that a lot of schools had to be built as 20% had been damaged or destroyed in the war. By 1950, 1176 new schools were built or under construction. This helped with the ‘Baby Boom’, where a lot of people had children around the same time.

To go into secondary schools pupil were to sit an intelligence test which meant depending on their score depended on which one of three schools they went to. The intelligence test was meant to be a fair system of selecting which school the children go to, but in reality the children that were better off went to the better schools. Labour didn’t do much to help the education of working class children, it wasn’t until 1964 when Labour introduces comprehensive schools. The Housing reform was needed as there were major housing shortages at the end of the war.

At the end of the war there ha d been 700,000 houses destroyed so there were a lot of homeless people. One of the issues of rebuilding the houses was that there was a shortage of building workers and there was a high price for the materials needed to build the houses. The government concentrated mostly on building private houses but between 1945-51 four council houses were built to every private one. From 1945-48 157,000 prefab houses were built as a temporary solution to the shortages of houses.

By 1951 there was still a shortage of houses and poor housing conditions and homelessness was a serious problem. In 1944 the Employment reform committed the government to the ‘maintenance of a high and stable level of employment after the war’ and by 1946 unemployment was running at 2. 5%. A problem with the employment reform was that it was not clear whether it was caused by policies such as nationalism, the post-war boom or Marshall Aid from America. From 1946-49 Labour nationalised key industries, those industries were no longer privately owned but run by the government.

It was then argued that the government could use the profits from the industries to tackle social and economic problems. Nationalisation cost the country a lot of money and many industries needed modernised and money had to be invested. The government tried to improve wages and working conditions for the workers in the industries but it only had limited success. The government also found it difficult to improve the industries and provide a better service for the public. Problems with the welfare reforms were that the welfare state on ‘bandaged’ Britain’s problems as deprivation and poverty still exist.

The middle class had benefited more from the welfare reform than the working class especially in education when more money was spent on schools. There was also too many compromises made to establish the NHS as private health care continued but the middle class could also benefit from free health care. The working class received free health care but it was paid for through greater taxes. There were also arguments that the Labour government couldn’t take all the credit for the welfare reforms because they only finished what the previous government started.

The welfare reform also had good causes. The labour government completed the welfare system that had grown up since the 19th century. The five giants were under attack and the state was providing a safety net from the ‘cradle to the grave’. Rowantree investigated poverty in York in 1950 and it had gone down to 2% compared to 36% in 1936. The government also didn’t just follow Beverage’s report because detailed plans had to be drawn up for reforms for the NHS.

The new Labour government in 1945 lacked political experiences and the country was in serious economic difficulties at the end of the war but they still managed to achieve a lot to make the country better for its people. Overall the welfare reforms from the Labour government was a success because they managed to help Britain a lot after the war, people needed money and better working conditions and they provided it, the children needed better education and they managed to get compulsory education and rebuild schools. But altogether the welfare reforms under the Labour government were a total success as it benefited Britain hugely.

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