Victorian Social Reform In Britain Essay Research — страница 5

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possessing insufficient means `for decent independent life`, i.e. he saw poverty as a relative concept not, as is sometimes thought, as absolute. ?Rowntree felt the need to establish the minimum income on which survival in a state of `physical efficiency` was possible. This included an amount sufficient to buy food adequate for energy needs at various ages, at the lowest current prices. This calculation was made possible by the recent exploration of nutritionists of the relationship between diet and health. He concluded that the minimum income necessary for a family consisting of a father, mother and three children was 21s 8d a week. He found that 6.8% of the working class population of York (3.6% as a whole) lived in houses with an income below this level. Rowntree described

these as living in primary poverty.? (Thane, 1996, p.8) Rowntree` s study made a further important contribution to the study of poverty when he reasoned, ?The life of a labourer is marked by five alternating periods of want and comparative plenty?. (Thane, 1996 p. 10.) These were firstly childhood, when the family had most dependants, in early middle life after marriage and the arrival of a family, then finally, old age. The implication was that almost everyone experienced some kind of poverty at some stage of their lives, and that a great deal of blame could be laid at the door of drinking and gambling. However, he understood this as a form of escapism from their harrowing existence. ?Rowntree to some extent reaffirmed the earlier Victorian view that the poor were not a `class

apart` but were deeply intertwined with the rest of the working class. `Poverty` and `comfort` were not mutually exclusive cultural conditions: they were cyclical phases that most working people might expect to pass through at some stage of their lives.? (Harris 1993 p.240) Both Seebohm and his father, Joseph, believed that a healthy and well-fed workforce would be efficient, and thus raised the wages in their own company, saying that the existence of those firms who refused to follow suit were bad for the nation` s economy and humanity. Rowntree , Booth, and Beatrice Webb all drew attention to the structural and organic effects of poverty , as well as its implications for the poor individual . The Committee on Physical Deterioration in 1904, condemned the habits of the poor and

analysed poverty as a form of organic social disease. Five years later the Majority and Minority Reports of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws, appeared in 1909. The Poor Law Commission embraced a wide range of economic and political opinion, including Beatrice Webb and Helen Bosanquet. Surveying the history of poverty since 1834, The Majority Report, which represented the views of Helen Bosanquet , endorsed the traditional individualist view that pauperism was fundamentally a moral condition, but at the same time came to the conclusion that ` something in our social organisation is seriously wrong` . Social policy, it was thought, should in future have elements of preventative, curative and restorative methods, be geared towards the needs of the individual, and to foster a

spirit of independence. The Minority Report drafted by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, shared the Majority view in that much poverty and destitution were linked to bad moral character. Unlike the Majority, however, the Webbs considered bad moral character as a consequence rather than a cause of the wider issue of social disorganisation. The solution of the Minority was not more humane and restorative treatment of those specifically defined as poor, but a network of comprehensive public services dealing with health, child care, education, and employment; services which would be equally available for all classes of the community. ?The authors of the Majority and Minority Reports on the Poor Laws were at one in the belief that there were savage tribes ` lurking at he bottom of our

civilisation`, which if not tamed and disciplined would ultimately overthrow it.? (Harris 1993 p242) In considering the effect of the revelations concerning poverty, it must be said that all the tireless work by recorders and reformers alike brought the plight of the poor to the attention of successive governments. The Conservative ministries, to their shame, prioritised their imperialistic ambitions to the detriment of social reform. Gladstone`s 1892/5 ministry was stifled in its endeavours by a Conservative House of Lords and a divided Liberal party, and it was n`t until the 1906 Liberal administration that Campbell-Bannerman and Balfour laid the foundations of the Welfare State. The work of Dickens, Gaskell and Mayhew seeped into popular consciousness, whilst the work of the