The first huge example for the needed welfare policies was the Boer War.
Records at the time of recruitment for the Boer War proved alarming as “threein every five men trying to enlist were unfit” (Arnold White, 1899) and reportsfound that nutrition played a role in the deficiency of the men and importantlythe Committee on Physical Deterioration had made the link between theconditions in the slums with national security, and discovered that unhealthycitizens meant declining national power(Gilbert,1965). Sir John FrederickMaurice argued the state of health reduced the recruitment process – publishedin Contemporary Review 1902, raising an alarm at the state of the recruitsresulting in the search for ‘National Efficiency’ (Gilbert, 1965). The majorsocial studies of Charles Booth also (Life and Labour of the People in London,1889-1903) and Seebohm Rowntree (1901) confirmed unhealthy population. Rowntreediscovered that families whose total earnings are insufficient to obtain theminimum necessary for the maintenance of merely physical efficiency and so therewas a call for social reform and they heavily focused on early childhood inhopes to improve quality of life and increase national efficiency- althoughthere were limitations, policies were put in place such as medical inspections,and later treatment was provided which were paid for by the government. The Liberal welfare reforms arguably set forth big changes withproviding acts in the early 1900’s to combat the welfare of children. Mostnotably they passed the Education Act 1906 which allowed authorities of localareas to feed hungry school children, the 1907 Education Act enquired thatlocal authorities were to inspect school children, the Children Act 1908 soughtto categorise punishments for children, separate from the influence of adultsin prisons by “providing juvenile centres which showed a change in attitude toa time where children were small adults fully responsible for their crime.”(Hendrick,2005)The Labour and socialist movement as well as the SDF believed in theirhumanitarian cause of maternal and child welfare, and in tackling the treatmentof them, in order to better society rather than in worry of maintaining theirpowerful empire.
(Stewart, 1993) Under Ramsay MacDonald,Margaret Bondfield claimed that children should not be working, but rather theyshould have a childhood up to the age of 18 instead, and the party agreed thatchild labour was “exploitive”. (Stewart, 1993) The party felt at the time thatchild welfare was a part of “restructuring society” and family was an importantpart of society therefore it is up to the government to protect breakdown offamilies from capitalism. (Stewart,1993) Arthur Henderson said at aconference that the first duty of the state was to protect child life, ‘one ofits most valuable assets’. (Stewart,1993) MacDonald’s view on therelationship between state, child, and the parent was that they had equalduties which would be beneficial to wider society.
(Stewart, 1993)Lord Rosebery declared the UK’s empire and place in the world meant thatthe condition of the people within it should be “…vigorous and industriousand intrepid”. (Gilbert, 1966) therefore starting with the ones who will providethis for the future- the mothers.
By instilling in young girls, the importanceof childcare, they were taught the proper the way to do so, alongside thisGeorge Bernard Shaw’s ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma’ called for them to “Take theutmost care to get well born and well brought up. This means your mother musthave a good doctor…” (Gilbert, 1966).In regards to national efficiency eugenicists claimed that most socialproblems were the result of poor heredity, which encouraged the state to lookto mothers, their wellbeing and ways in which to ensure they produce fit andhealthy future citizens in order to sustain the UK’s power. “Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing most rapidly … Manyof the children thus begotten are diseased or feeble-minded; many becomecriminals.
The burden of supportingthese unwanted types has to be borne by healthy elements of the nation.”(Sanger, 1922) Eugenicists focused on the personality trait of intelligence,feeble-mindedness, criminality, pauperism and mental disorder (Allen, 2011) andbelieved higher rates of disease and child mortality occurred due to neglectand ignorance. (Jones, 1982).There was the growing fear and dismissal due to the lower class givingbirth to more and more children in poverty like conditions, compared to the rich:’The poorest classes already breed almost as fast as they can, faster than anyother part of the community’. (Harben, 1930) Therefore the government werereluctant to aid mothers and support maternity, however the mixture of angryfeminists who felt there was an unfair forced dependency after having childrenand the idea of providing mothers with necessary help, became more acceptableas by doing so, the government believed the more they prosper, the more theybecame careful. In addition to the increased belief and focus in wellbeing, theidea of the government supporting mothers for a change made more sense and thus’may not be so evil’ (Harben, 1930) because maternity provisions produced progressin regards to the decrease in infant mortality. Responsibility for women andchildren came into fruition with the 1911 National Insurance Act, which provideduniversal maternal health benefit and a one-off maternity grant of 30 shillingsfor insured women.
This social reform was seen to be key in the welfare of the nation’schildren and hoped this would encourage self-care, healthy growth and continuousdecline in infant mortality rates. It also paved the way for understandinghealth and child guidance as there was a mounting desire for a healthy nation. Marriedwomen were able to access the Special Purpose benefits which included maternityand widow’s benefits, the Maternity benefit was also provided however there wasincrease in salary for “housewives who work” to allow for time off. The necessity of maternal and child welfare policies could be argued toonly have occurred because the nation state was put at risk and that nationalefficiency was the key to maintaining a superior empire due to many reasonssuch as fierce competitors abroad and so on. However, as a result of World WarOne, it contributed to the necessary maternal and child welfare policies withinthe first half of the twentieth century, as it highlighted the importance of achild’s life. In regards to the Second World War, the need for the nation to pulltogether meant the government intervened more in providing resources necessaryfor the people (Crowther, 1988). Within in this involved more policiesregarding insurance, unemployment as well as council housing and importantly, the1933 Children & Young Persons Act was revised as childcare guidelines wereconcerned about ‘juvenile delinquency’ and so on.
Margaret McMillan, a Christian Socialistfocused work on the physical and welfare of slum children, she served on theBradford School Board concluding that hungry children do not learn. Theintroduction of school meals in 1906 and medical inspections began in 1907 weresuccesses of hers, (but it was not universal until 1912) and the Notificationof Births Act 1907 allowed insight on infant mortality, in which the governmentrealised the deaths were due to their “sheer lack of means to provide thenecessary protection” (John Stewart,2007). The Education Act 1907 made medicalinspections in school’s compulsory where children would be examined and in 1912onwards treatment was given to children in some authorities paid for bygovernment, consequently, treatment was costly and many families could notafford it and shown in multiple social surveys was the realisation that manyhouseholds just could not afford the necessary healthy lifestyle.
(Stewart,1993) The acts ensured shared responsibility of both the parent and the stateof the care of the children, while not taking over the role of the parententirely- any punishments of the child by the state encouraged stronger senseof parental responsibility. (Stewart, 1993) The state’s need to step in whenrequired to do so based off the fact that they wanted to ensure that childrengrew up to be serviceable to the country and the new supervisory role they tookon was to redefine the relationship between them, the parent and the child inorder to maintain economically powerful. (Stewart, 1993) Boyd Hilton ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous People’ (BoydHilton, 2008) stated that in avoidance of an uprising these policies such as maternalwelfare was “more an attempt to prevent uprising”. A few of these reforms focusedon children’s wellbeing, including the provision of food within schools: by 1914,14 million meals were provided in comparison to the 3 million in 1906. Thecontinuous physical inspection of school children was deemed necessary astaking care of physical health was a means of improving the nation state, nevertheless,despite these reforms the provisions were not compulsory, (Stewart,1993) in order to finance school mealstaxes would have to be raised and in 1911 less than one third of localauthorities were providing school meals, (Stewart, 1993) in addition there wereno provision made for children during the school holidays, as well as this therewas also the sense that school meals would actually erode family values- thisway of thinking had to be reformed. (Stewart, 1993) In 1941, Lloyd George’s view on children wasthat he prioritized children’s needs as future citizens: ‘I do not need toremind the House that the children of to-day are the ones who will have toreconstruct the country, and we must see to it that they do not suffer as aresult of the war’.The Children & Young Persons Acteliminated the selling of tobacco to children and the enforcement that nowadults were to push these rules upon children for the good of their wellbeing. Furthermore,there were concerns over juvenile delinquency and the need for rehabilitation, theseprominent amendments showed society was changing and adapting its views onchildren perceiving them as a resource rather than a burden.
The Children ‘sDepartments in 1948 were founded in response to a child care scandal. Thus the1948 Children Act became the duty of a local authority to ‘receive the childinto care’ in cases of abuse or neglect following the death of 13-year-oldDennis O’Neill at the hands of foster parents. In theCurtis review he said: ‘in no case did we find that any inquiry even in themost general or discreet terms had been addressed to the police about theapplicant’s record.
‘ The 1948 Act resulted in the mandatory Children’sCommittees and Children’s Officers within local government.Brenda’sFroggy’s Little Brother, a Victorian novel about Froggy and his brother tryingto survive after their parent’s death unbeknownst to the authorities,encouraged the turn in social feeling towards the welfare of children andhighlighted the innocence of children, compared to the earlier years wherechildren worked alongside adults in factories. This change made aware to the governmentthe needs of children and the desire to protect them from the evils ofemployment. The opinions were being challenged as thedays of children in labour were no longer normalised but rather seen as cruel. Childwelfare increasingly became a national concern and in the beginning of the 20thcentury the provisions of care being provided through all these acts gave somesatisfaction for the hopeful future generation, in line with this thinking, JamesVernon said: it was not just the provision of food for hungry children, but thematerial environment surrounding that ‘was considered critical to the aim ofturning out civil and sociable citizens’.Within child welfare, child guidance was seen as important moral need inbringing up children into the 20th century in a stable way as maladjustmentwas considered something that would affect society and the way theestablishment was run- thus the new policies were a way of preventing an ‘evil’society and becoming a threat to social order.
The government felt that investing in children was important and focusingon their future and intervening in it would promote national efficiency, creatinga better Britain. The Second World War brought about feelings of change and droppingthe laissez faire attitude, the focus on mothers became a part of key policiesand children were considered priority- crucial to the welfare state. HughCunningham describes the increasing motivation to improve all children’swelfare by the end of the First World War, due to “a concern for the future ofthe nation and of the race, and children were seen as holding the key to both”.