WJEC AS History Unit 1 Option 4: Politics, people and progress in Wales and England c.1880-1980 - The Liberal Reforms


The Liberal Government’s Response to the Challenges Facing Wales and England 1906-1914


  • Laissez-faire: someone believing one is not responsibility for the social welfare of individuals.
  • Poverty: whether one could meet basic needs like food and clothing.
  • Philanthropy: charity and good will.
  • Ideology: political beliefs.


Before 1906

  • The 1880 Education Act made elementary education (for children aged 5-10 years old) compulsory. In 1891 it was made free. By 1900 95% of people could read.
  • Government believed in laissez-faire. Middle classes people, apart from exceptions such as Booth and Rowntree, looked down upon working class as believed, as Samuel Smiles says, ‘Heaven helps those who help the selves.’ Did not want to encourage laziness. Believed in self-help. 

  • Attitudes began to change. Compulsory education, in 1870, shocked teachers concerning the state of children. 90% had poor teeth.

The Reforms - The Young

  • Free School mealsAct1906 – by 1914, 14 million meals were provided in total (1906 = 3 million). Less than half, though, of all local authorities provided school meals.

  • Medical inspections 1907 – detected a lot of medical problems. Glasgow, 30% were found to be ‘verminous’. No obligation to treat the problem. Yet grants were given to some local authorities.


The Reforms – The Old

Pensions Act 1908– Very costly. For people aged 70+. By 1914, nearly a million were receiving them. Amount however was below Rowntree’s poverty line (5 shillings in 1909). Affected a very small amount of people. Could be withheld in ‘underserving cases.’ 70 for pensions was a harsh decision as the poor died young. Administrated by the post office, thus removing shame of poor law. Old age pensions – ‘As they picked up their money they would say, God bless Lloyd George.’ D. Morrison.


The Reforms - The Employed.

National Insurance Act (Part 2) 1911 – workers, employers and state contributed. 7 shillings a week paid to those out of work. Only 2.3 million covered. Only compulsory in cyclical trades. Benefited limited to 15 weeks out of every year. Only covered worker NOT family. Involved contributions from worker thus had to do a degree of self-help (government never abandoned it, only modified it). Workers were opposed being forced to pay contributions. Benefits were still tied to the idea of deserving and underserving poor.


The Effectiveness of the Reforms – Positive.

  • Tried to…


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