The of health reduced the recruitment process – published

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 “three
in every five men trying to enlist were unfit” (Arnold White, 1899) and reports
found that nutrition played a role in the deficiency of the men and importantly
the Committee on Physical Deterioration had made the link between the
conditions in the slums with national security, and discovered that unhealthy
citizens meant declining national power(Gilbert,1965). Sir John Frederick
Maurice argued the state of health reduced the recruitment process – published
in Contemporary Review 1902, raising an alarm at the state of the recruits
resulting in the search for ‘National Efficiency’ (Gilbert, 1965). The major
social studies of Charles Booth also (Life and Labour of the People in London,
1889-1903) and Seebohm Rowntree (1901) confirmed unhealthy population. Rowntree
discovered that families whose total earnings are insufficient to obtain the
minimum necessary for the maintenance of merely physical efficiency and so there
was a call for social reform and they heavily focused on early childhood in
hopes to improve quality of life and increase national efficiency- although
there 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 with
providing acts in the early 1900’s to combat the welfare of children. Most
notably they passed the Education Act 1906 which allowed authorities of local
areas to feed hungry school children, the 1907 Education Act enquired that
local authorities were to inspect school children, the Children Act 1908 sought
to categorise punishments for children, separate from the influence of adults
in prisons by “providing juvenile centres which showed a change in attitude to
a time where children were small adults fully responsible for their crime.”(Hendrick,

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The Labour and socialist movement as well as the SDF believed in their
humanitarian cause of maternal and child welfare, and in tackling the treatment
of them, in order to better society rather than in worry of maintaining their
powerful empire. (Stewart, 1993) Under Ramsay MacDonald,
Margaret Bondfield claimed that children should not be working, but rather they
should have a childhood up to the age of 18 instead, and the party agreed that
child labour was “exploitive”. (Stewart, 1993) The party felt at the time that
child welfare was a part of “restructuring society” and family was an important
part of society therefore it is up to the government to protect breakdown of
families from capitalism. (Stewart,
1993)  Arthur Henderson said at a
conference that the first duty of the state was to protect child life, ‘one of
its most valuable assets’. (Stewart,
1993)  MacDonald’s view on the
relationship between state, child, and the parent was that they had equal
duties which would be beneficial to wider society. (Stewart, 1993)

Lord Rosebery declared the UK’s empire and place in the world meant that
the condition of the people within it should be “…vigorous and industrious
and intrepid”. (Gilbert, 1966) therefore starting with the ones who will provide
this for the future- the mothers. By instilling in young girls, the importance
of childcare, they were taught the proper the way to do so, alongside this
George Bernard Shaw’s ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma’ called for them to “Take the
utmost care to get well born and well brought up. This means your mother must
have a good doctor…”  (Gilbert, 1966).

In regards to national efficiency eugenicists claimed that most social
problems were the result of poor heredity, which encouraged the state to look
to mothers, their wellbeing and ways in which to ensure they produce fit and
healthy future citizens in order to sustain the UK’s power.

“Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing most rapidly … Many
of the children thus begotten are diseased or feeble-minded; many become
criminals.  The burden of supporting
these 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) and
believed higher rates of disease and child mortality occurred due to neglect
and ignorance. (Jones, 1982).

There was the growing fear and dismissal due to the lower class giving
birth 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 any
other part of the community’. (Harben, 1930) Therefore the government were
reluctant to aid mothers and support maternity, however the mixture of angry
feminists who felt there was an unfair forced dependency after having children
and the idea of providing mothers with necessary help, became more acceptable
as by doing so, the government believed the more they prosper, the more they
became careful. In addition to the increased belief and focus in wellbeing, the
idea of the government supporting mothers for a change made more sense and thus
‘may not be so evil’ (Harben, 1930) because maternity provisions produced progress
in regards to the decrease in infant mortality. Responsibility for women and
children came into fruition with the 1911 National Insurance Act, which provided
universal maternal health benefit and a one-off maternity grant of 30 shillings
for insured women. This social reform was seen to be key in the welfare of the nation’s
children and hoped this would encourage self-care, healthy growth and continuous
decline in infant mortality rates. It also paved the way for understanding
health and child guidance as there was a mounting desire for a healthy nation. Married
women were able to access the Special Purpose benefits which included maternity
and widow’s benefits, the Maternity benefit was also provided however there was
increase in salary for “housewives who work” to allow for time off. 

The necessity of maternal and child welfare policies could be argued to
only have occurred because the nation state was put at risk and that national
efficiency was the key to maintaining a superior empire due to many reasons
such as fierce competitors abroad and so on. However, as a result of World War
One, it contributed to the necessary maternal and child welfare policies within
the first half of the twentieth century, as it highlighted the importance of a
child’s life. In regards to the Second World War, the need for the nation to pull
together meant the government intervened more in providing resources necessary
for the people (Crowther, 1988). Within in this involved more policies
regarding insurance, unemployment as well as council housing and importantly, the
1933 Children & Young Persons Act was revised as childcare guidelines were
concerned about ‘juvenile delinquency’ and so on.

Margaret McMillan, a Christian Socialist
focused work on the physical and welfare of slum children, she served on the
Bradford School Board concluding that hungry children do not learn. The
introduction of school meals in 1906 and medical inspections began in 1907 were
successes of hers, (but it was not universal until 1912) and the Notification
of Births Act 1907 allowed insight on infant mortality, in which the government
realised the deaths were due to their “sheer lack of means to provide the
necessary protection” (John Stewart,2007). The Education Act 1907 made medical
inspections in school’s compulsory where children would be examined and in 1912
onwards treatment was given to children in some authorities paid for by
government, consequently, treatment was costly and many families could not
afford it and shown in multiple social surveys was the realisation that many
households just could not afford the necessary healthy lifestyle. (Stewart,
1993) The acts ensured shared responsibility of both the parent and the state
of the care of the children, while not taking over the role of the parent
entirely- any punishments of the child by the state encouraged stronger sense
of parental responsibility. (Stewart, 1993) The state’s need to step in when
required to do so based off the fact that they wanted to ensure that children
grew up to be serviceable to the country and the new supervisory role they took
on was to redefine the relationship between them, the parent and the child in
order to maintain economically powerful. (Stewart, 1993)  Boyd Hilton ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous People’ (Boyd
Hilton, 2008) stated that in avoidance of an uprising these policies such as maternal
welfare was “more an attempt to prevent uprising”. A few of these reforms focused
on 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. The
continuous physical inspection of school children was deemed necessary as
taking 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 meals
taxes would have to be raised and in 1911 less than one third of local
authorities were providing school meals, (Stewart, 1993) in addition there were
no provision made for children during the school holidays, as well as this there
was also the sense that school meals would actually erode family values- this
way of thinking had to be reformed. (Stewart, 1993)  In 1941, Lloyd George’s view on children was
that he prioritized children’s needs as future citizens: ‘I do not need to
remind the House that the children of to-day are the ones who will have to
reconstruct the country, and we must see to it that they do not suffer as a
result of the war’.

The Children & Young Persons Act
eliminated the selling of tobacco to children and the enforcement that now
adults 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, these
prominent amendments showed society was changing and adapting its views on
children perceiving them as a resource rather than a burden. The Children ‘s
Departments in 1948 were founded in response to a child care scandal. Thus the
1948 Children Act became the duty of a local authority to ‘receive the child
into care’ in cases of abuse or neglect following the death of 13-year-old
Dennis O’Neill at the hands of foster parents. In the
Curtis review he said: ‘in no case did we find that any inquiry even in the
most general or discreet terms had been addressed to the police about the
applicant’s record.’ The 1948 Act resulted in the mandatory Children’s
Committees and Children’s Officers within local government.

Froggy’s Little Brother, a Victorian novel about Froggy and his brother trying
to survive after their parent’s death unbeknownst to the authorities,
encouraged the turn in social feeling towards the welfare of children and
highlighted the innocence of children, compared to the earlier years where
children worked alongside adults in factories. This change made aware to the government
the needs of children and the desire to protect them from the evils of
employment. The opinions were being challenged as the
days of children in labour were no longer normalised but rather seen as cruel. Child
welfare increasingly became a national concern and in the beginning of the 20th
century the provisions of care being provided through all these acts gave some
satisfaction for the hopeful future generation, in line with this thinking, James
Vernon said: it was not just the provision of food for hungry children, but the
material environment surrounding that ‘was considered critical to the aim of
turning out civil and sociable citizens’.

Within child welfare, child guidance was seen as important moral need in
bringing up children into the 20th century in a stable way as maladjustment
was considered something that would affect society and the way the
establishment 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 focusing
on their future and intervening in it would promote national efficiency, creating
a better Britain. The Second World War brought about feelings of change and dropping
the laissez faire attitude, the focus on mothers became a part of key policies
and children were considered priority- crucial to the welfare state. Hugh
Cunningham describes the increasing motivation to improve all children’s
welfare by the end of the First World War, due to “a concern for the future of
the nation and of the race, and children were seen as holding the key to both”.


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