How successfully did the Liberal governments of 1906-1914 deal with the problems affecting the poor and underprivileged in Britain?
In Britain in 1906 to 1914 the Liberal government was faced with serious amounts of poverty affecting the young, the old and workforce. By 1906 they began to introduce a series of reforms to help the poor and underprivileged, these included free school meals, medical inspections and the children’s charter. For the elderly the Pension Act was introduced, and the national insurance act for the workforce. The Liberal government did a great deal to help the poor and underprivileged by introducing a series of very beneficial reforms, but then these were not entirely flawless. By 1906 the children in Britain suffered from severe malnutrition and a poor diet. They struggled to learn on an empty stomach and so in 1906 the Liberals introduced free school meals, aimed at providing all school children a free meal every day. This helped them concentrate and learn in school. It was recorded that by 1914, 14 million meals were provided around Britain. While this reform seemed to have such a huge impact on children there were still flaws, mainly with funding. While some schools from richer areas were able to provide free meals, there were a lot of poorer areas that couldn’t afford to do this. By 1912 the government realised that over half the schools in Britain failed to provide the children with meals at all. Further research showed that the children who received the meals during school days were left to go hungry during the holidays. Finally, in 1914 the Liberal government made it compulsory for all children to receive free school meals and they agreed to provide 50% grants to the local authorities. So by 1914 the free school meals act was partly successful in helping the poor and underprivileged. Although the health of many children had improved, it was reported by most schools that children who turned up to school, arrived in ‘dreadful and verminous’ conditions. To help cure this, the Liberals introduced another reform, to provide medical inspections in all schools in 1907. Clinics were set up 1912 which were provided with nurses who would regularly examine the children. The medical inspections provided a great deal of help to the poor children who showed up in terrible conditions. The nurses were able to identify problem and also they were able to take action against the parents who let their children come to school in these terrible states. As much as this reform seemed to have so many positives it didn’t completely work. This act was realised in 1907 but no clinics were even set up until 1912 that was five years where the act didn’t actually make a difference. So when these clinics were finally set up and the children had been inspected, thousands of children had been recorded as verminous or having defective teeth. The parents of these children were informed of the conditions and from then on it was the parent’s responsibility to make the changes, but children that suffered were suffering because they were poor and were not able to afford medical help. So in a way the medical inspections were largely ineffective. When the Liberals were informed that the children still appeared at school in these horrible conditions, they were asked to fund the clinics so they could buy medicine, but the liberals refused. And so the medical inspections were only partly successful in dealing with the poor and underprivileged. The final step the Liberals made to improve the children of Britain was introducing yet another reform, the children’s charter. This reform was set up so that children would stay off the streets and prevent them from breaking the law. Lots of children were thrown out to the streets because the families were just too poor to look after them. These children often grew up as thieves and had to steal to live on the streets. Juvenile courts were set up to prosecute the children who broke the law;...
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