Comparison of Approaches in Social Welfare Provision



The victory of the Liberal Party by a huge scale in 1906 general elections brought new faces in the Liberal Members of Parliament’s ranks. This came about with many changes in the social welfare field (Lund 2002). The Liberals who formed the government took steps to improve the living and working conditions, and health standard of the lower class. The key areas that was concerned with people was targeted by the legislation, was on the working-class population who were being faced with the risk of poverty due to unemployment or sickness, the old aged people under pension and the children. Finlayson (1994) observed that Liberal rule effectiveness on these matters was clear because the legislation gave solution to the problems of poverty, and what was intended to achieve was successful.

The initial task that was considered by the new Liberal government was the children’s welfare. Malnourished children had surfaced increasingly because of the aid rate extension in all schools and the formation in 1902 of the local education authorizes (Fisher & Collins 1993). Therefore, it is documented that too hungry, and debilitated children ware present, and to solve it, the government introduced the 1906 Education Act (Harris 2004). The authorities of the local education were empowered to provide school food to the destitute children by levying some money.

According to Powell (1996), the Education Act in 1907 made compulsory medical inspection of the children. This was done to reduce frequent diseases outbreak. Lastly the 1908 Children Act introduced measures to deal with abuse and neglect of children and set up remand homes, and juvenile homes to separate child offenders from the prisons and courts of the adults. Lund (2002) observed that the act ensured that the children were not going without food and were not living in the streets. The events of improving the welfare of the children were successful in general (Finlayson 1994).

The second target according to Fisher & Collins (1993) for the new Liberal government was the old age pensioner’s welfare. Because of lack of government financial backing, poverty was high. In 1908, the old age Pensions Act was introduced to provide 5s pensions per week for people aged 70 and over. Harris (2004) indicated that as much as the legislation helped in improving the social conditions and prevented extreme poverty for the pensioners, there existed much exclusion. For instance, the claimants of the poor relief the previous year, ex convicts were not entitled to the government funding. Powell (1996) pointed out that as much as the program was successful; the small amount issued was not enough for poverty prevention.

In addition to old age pension, the government tried to address the problem of earning loss due to sickness and unemployment. This is because the economic situation generally was becoming difficult for the low-income people. Moreover, as unemployment was rapidly increasing, the wages declining.

Lund (2002) pointed out that by 1909, schemes of introducing unemployment and sick insurance were advanced the implementation of The National Insurance Act of 1911 was delayed. The explanation for the delay was due to the powerful entrenched vested interests for the sickness benefits, for instance the insurance companies, friendly societies, the doctors and the state. Finlayson (1994) indicated that The National Insurance Act was in two dimensions; the Unemployment and the Health Insurance. This act was a plausible move by the government in poverty reduction. This is because of the bad health levels at the time for the people who were not earning.

According to Senior (1834), the poor people got help in the 1800s, but in 1834 changes in the law made life harder. The Poor Law outlined how people were helped. Each parish was mandated to take care of the poor people in their jurisdiction. If an individual was unable to work, they were provided with money for survival (Knott 1986). However, it was costly because the money was from taxes from upper and middle-class people. This caused resentment and complaints that the money went to the poor lazy people. Furthermore, critics argued that the allowance system worsened the situation because it encouraged giving birth among the poor people for children they could not take care. Similarly, critics argued that the law was the reason wages of workers was kept low because the employers knew the poor workers will be supplemented by the law. This called for amendment, and consequently Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was passed by the parliament.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was designed for reduction of cost of caring the poor. It stopped money reaching the poor people, and if they wanted, they had to go to a warehouse to obtain it. Cadman (1976) pointed out that the poor were given food and clothes in the workhouse in exchange for manual labor for several hours daily. Furthermore, splitting of the family was common in the warehouse where they wore uniforms, were on a bad diet, followed strict rules.

Senior (1834) outlined the reason why the approach was changed. The aims of the policy were to transfer the rural workers who were unemployed to urban areas to work, and to protect the middle class tax payers from urban from paying too much. However, the implementation of the law was impossible because it was costly to the tax payers; building of the warehouses was slow and costly and lastly high rate of unemployment and burden of transferring the paupers to the warehouses (Knott 1986).


From the discussion, it comes out that the Liberal approach to social welfare was successful compared to the approach employed by The Poor Amendment Act. The magnitude of the task undertaken was huge, and they also created a welfare state that gave a solution to poverty. The legislation like Pensions Bill and The National Insurance Act reduced poverty chances for the old aged people and working class people. Moreover, by introducing the juvenile courts, health inspection and food provision for children, it helped in reducing the number of children who were homeless. The introduction of minimum wages and working hours in an attempt to regulate the workers treatment was also a sign of success.


Lund, B. (2002) Understanding state welfare social justice or social exclusion? London: SAGE. Retrieved on 2nd  August 2013 from

Finlayson, G. B. A. M. (1994) Citizen, state, and social welfare in Britain 1830-1990. Oxford [England]: Clarendon Press.

Fisher, K., & Collins, J. (1993) Homelessness, health care, and welfare provision. London: Routledge.

Harris, B. (2004) The origins of the British welfare state: society, state, and social welfare in England and Wales, 1800-1945. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.

Powell, D. (1996). The Edwardian crisis: Britain, 1901-14. New York, St. Martin’s Press.

Senior, N. W. (1834) Outline of the Poor Law Amendment Act. London: B. Fellowes.

Knott, J. R. (1986) Popular opposition to the 1834 Poor Law. London: Croom Helm.

Cadman, G. A. (1976) The administration of the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834, in the Hexham Poor Law Union, 1836-1930. Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

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