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Labour Reforms 1945-1951 Essay

When the war ended in 1945, the Labour Government, led by Clement Atlee, were faced with tackling numerous problems that existed in Britain. Their aim was to meet the welfare needs of the British people who, during the war, got used to support provided by the government. In 1942, a Civil Servant and an experienced worker on social welfare named William Beveridge constructed a report which would go on to become the basis for the Labour reforms. By 1951, Labour had introduced many different reforms aiming to tackle the problems that faced Britain.

The Beveridge Report identified what is known as the 5 giants; these include disease, want, squalor, idleness and ignorance. Arguably the most important and successful were the acts introduced to tackle disease and want, but some may disagree. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Labour government met most of the needs of the British people between 1945-1951. Many people regarded the problem of disease as the most important, especially after the war. To tackle this, the Labour Government introduced what is seen by many people to be the most successful creation, the National Health Service.

It was created in 1948 and covered everyone’s health issues from hospital care and GPs to free dental and optician care. It was extremely popular to begin with, but the Government were not fully prepared for the expense. The budget had risen by more than 50% of it’s original budget within the first year, but they continued with it anyway. Most people would still say that the NHS was a resounding success, even though many left wing historians argue that it did not eliminate private health care fully.

Ultimately, the NHS was one of the greatest creations of the 20th century and is also one of the foundations for the democratic society we live in today. Another huge problem faced by the Labour Government was the lack of social security in Britain. This safety net was introduced in 1946 and was named the National Insurance Act which was meant to support everyone ‘from the cradle to the grave’, including the middle and upper classes. This therefore included maternity, widow, sickness, retirement and also a funeral grant.

The National Assistance Act was also setup for anyone who fell through the net. Much like the NHS though, the budget rose very rapidly and before long, more and more people were signing up for the National Assistance. One historian calculated that benefits only gave 19% of the industrial wage in 1948. This shows that it did not fully meet the needs of all the British people who required National Insurance. However, on the plus side, Rowntree conducted a study in York in 1950 which found that Primary poverty had reduced from 36% in 1936 down to 2%.

Therefore, the Labour Government succeeded in creating a safety net for most people in Britain, but many still believe that it did not meet the needs of everyone in the country. Squalor was another major problem faced by the Labour Government. During the war, a lot of housing had been destroyed which forced the Government to act on this. The New Towns Act was soon introduced in 1946 which aimed to build 200,000 and 14 new towns every year by 1951. One reason why this failed was due to a lack of skilled builders after the war and a shortage of building materials.

One historian, Timmins, stated that ‘Traditionally, housing has been branded the welfare state failure of Bevan and the Labour Government. ’ In general, the Labour Party failed to meet its targets and overcrowding and slum housing was still much of an issue after 1951. Therefore, it did not meet the needs of the British people fully as many still went on suffering. After the war, the Labour Government aimed at keeping unemployment low. To do so, they decided to tackle the problem of idleness by nationalising many of Britain’s key industries. This included gas, electricity, coal, civil aviation, British Transport, and the Bank of England.

At first, it was seen as a success because unemployment remained low for the meantime. In hindsight though, many historians credit private investment and building as the key to this. One historian in particular said that ‘ Full employment was…the result of…the boom in private investment after 1945. ’ Coal mining was run very badly and soon led to a huge decline. This means that it was not down to the Labour Government’s efforts but through private investment mostly. So although the government may have helped, they did not meet the needs of the British people after the war.

The final giant highlighted in the Beveridge Report in 1942 was ignorance. This was considered by many to be the most important as education lies at the roots of a child’s future. The Government set out to make education more available to everybody and not for a person’s class to determine their future. This was a huge task that began with the Butler Education Act in 1944 in which Labour continued with. The school leaving age was raised from 14 to 15 and children were separated into s system with junior and secondary schools which were decided on the results of the qualification exam at the age of 11.

Local councils provided grants for working class families to send their children to university if they graduated Secondary School. Education was made more accessible to everyone when it became free. By 1950, 928 new Primary Schools had been built and 35,000 new teachers were trained to work in these schools. One downside to the system was that children who failed the ‘11+1 were seen as inferior, and had less hope of being successful in the future. In general, the idea and intention behind the system worked but when put into practice, it was not successful in meeting the welfare needs of the British people.

In conclusion, the post-war Labour Government provided a lot of support for the British people struggling after hard times. The Beveridge Report of 1942 helped guide them as to what problems to tackle. The National Health Service and National Insurance Act are still considered to be the most successful to this day. Others such as the New Towns Act and the nationalisation of key industries were less successful in comparison. Therefore, the Labour reforms introduced between 1945 and 1951 somewhat met the welfare needs of the British people.

When the war ended in 1945, the Labour Government, led by Clement Atlee, were faced with tackling numerous problems that existed in Britain. Their aim was to meet the welfare needs of the British people who, during the war, got used to support provided by the government. In 1942, a Civil Servant and an experienced worker on social welfare named William Beveridge constructed a report which would go on to become the basis for the Labour reforms. By 1951, Labour had introduced many different reforms aiming to tackle the problems that faced Britain.

The Beveridge Report identified what is known as the 5 giants; these include disease, want, squalor, idleness and ignorance. Arguably the most important and successful were the acts introduced to tackle disease and want, but some may disagree. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Labour government met most of the needs of the British people between 1945-1951. Many people regarded the problem of disease as the most important, especially after the war. To tackle this, the Labour Government introduced what is seen by many people to be the most successful creation, the National Health Service.

It was created in 1948 and covered everyone’s health issues from hospital care and GPs to free dental and optician care. It was extremely popular to begin with, but the Government were not fully prepared for the expense. The budget had risen by more than 50% of it’s original budget within the first year, but they continued with it anyway. Most people would still say that the NHS was a resounding success, even though many left wing historians argue that it did not eliminate private health care fully.

Ultimately, the NHS was one of the greatest creations of the 20th century and is also one of the foundations for the democratic society we live in today. Another huge problem faced by the Labour Government was the lack of social security in Britain. This safety net was introduced in 1946 and was named the National Insurance Act which was meant to support everyone ‘from the cradle to the grave’, including the middle and upper classes. This therefore included maternity, widow, sickness, retirement and also a funeral grant.

The National Assistance Act was also setup for anyone who fell through the net. Much like the NHS though, the budget rose very rapidly and before long, more and more people were signing up for the National Assistance. One historian calculated that benefits only gave 19% of the industrial wage in 1948. This shows that it did not fully meet the needs of all the British people who required National Insurance. However, on the plus side, Rowntree conducted a study in York in 1950 which found that Primary poverty had reduced from 36% in 1936 down to 2%.

Therefore, the Labour Government succeeded in creating a safety net for most people in Britain, but many still believe that it did not meet the needs of everyone in the country. Squalor was another major problem faced by the Labour Government. During the war, a lot of housing had been destroyed which forced the Government to act on this. The New Towns Act was soon introduced in 1946 which aimed to build 200,000 and 14 new towns every year by 1951. One reason why this failed was due to a lack of skilled builders after the war and a shortage of building materials.

One historian, Timmins, stated that ‘Traditionally, housing has been branded the welfare state failure of Bevan and the Labour Government. ’ In general, the Labour Party failed to meet its targets and overcrowding and slum housing was still much of an issue after 1951. Therefore, it did not meet the needs of the British people fully as many still went on suffering. After the war, the Labour Government aimed at keeping unemployment low. To do so, they decided to tackle the problem of idleness by nationalising many of Britain’s key industries. This included gas, electricity, coal, civil aviation, British Transport, and the Bank of England.

At first, it was seen as a success because unemployment remained low for the meantime. In hindsight though, many historians credit private investment and building as the key to this. One historian in particular said that ‘ Full employment was…the result of…the boom in private investment after 1945. ’ Coal mining was run very badly and soon led to a huge decline. This means that it was not down to the Labour Government’s efforts but through private investment mostly. So although the government may have helped, they did not meet the needs of the British people after the war.

The final giant highlighted in the Beveridge Report in 1942 was ignorance. This was considered by many to be the most important as education lies at the roots of a child’s future. The Government set out to make education more available to everybody and not for a person’s class to determine their future. This was a huge task that began with the Butler Education Act in 1944 in which Labour continued with. The school leaving age was raised from 14 to 15 and children were separated into s system with junior and secondary schools which were decided on the results of the qualification exam at the age of 11.

Local councils provided grants for working class families to send their children to university if they graduated Secondary School. Education was made more accessible to everyone when it became free. By 1950, 928 new Primary Schools had been built and 35,000 new teachers were trained to work in these schools. One downside to the system was that children who failed the ‘11+1 were seen as inferior, and had less hope of being successful in the future. In general, the idea and intention behind the system worked but when put into practice, it was not successful in meeting the welfare needs of the British people.

In conclusion, the post-war Labour Government provided a lot of support for the British people struggling after hard times. The Beveridge Report of 1942 helped guide them as to what problems to tackle. The National Health Service and National Insurance Act are still considered to be the most successful to this day. Others such as the New Towns Act and the nationalisation of key industries were less successful in comparison. Therefore, the Labour reforms introduced between 1945 and 1951 somewhat met the welfare needs of the British people.


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