The Liberal welfare reforms of 1906-1914 saw a remarkable change in government policy from a largely laissez-faire (a policy of non-intervention) approach to a more interventionist approach. The Liberal government, led by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman would do more in the way of social reform than any government before it, establishing an obligation to help the more vulnerable members of society who were not in a position to help themselves.
Two social surveys were published at the beginning of the twentieth century which shook the people of Britain. They undoubtedly paved the way for a whole range of government led reforms. Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree, two very wealthy businessmen helped sponsor investigations in to the causes of poverty in Britain. Their findings were; up to 30% of the population of the cities were living in or below the poverty levels, conditions were so bad that people could not pull themselves out of poverty by their own actions. Both Rowntree and Booth agreed that the main causes of poverty were – illness, unemployment and age (the very young and very old)
In 1908 Herbert Henry Asquith took over the Liberals and soon the wheels were set in motion in regards to the social reforms. Asquith would later promote two significant figures whose partnership was said to be the strength behind the reforms – Winston Churchill the young man in a hurry and David Lloyd George the Welsh wizard.
There were many factors and motives for the reforms being passed, such as:
National Security Concerns – During the war, one in three potential army recruits were refused on medical grounds. The government would have to do something to ensure basic health levels among working class men.
Concerns Over National Efficiency – Britain’s position of being a world power was under threat from emerging powers such as Germany. In order to...