Poverty and Welfare in Scotland, 1890-1948

Poverty and Welfare in Scotland, 1890-1948

Poverty and Welfare in Scotland, 1890-1948

Poverty and Welfare in Scotland, 1890-1948

Excerpt

At the end of the Second World War there occurred a dramatic shift in British political opinion. With Labour sweeping the country to claim a victory as large as the Liberal landslide of 1906, a new era in political administration was quickly established. By 1947 the shape of welfare in that administration had become dear. There was to be a free and national health service, overcoming both the old division between voluntary and local hospital control and the haphazard nature of general practitioner care. An integrated and compulsory national insurance scheme covering the unemployed, the sick and the retired was to be introduced. Local authority services were to be completely revamped, with particular emphasis on the provision of domicilary support for those elderly, children and disabled not requiring medical or monetary assistance. A new national assistance scheme for those disqualified from insurance benefit, sweeping away the last vestiges of a locally based Poor Law, was to be introduced. In its provisions, not only was the Government going to assume a responsibility for monetary benefits, but the whole ethos of meeting need was to alter. Out went a legal- bureaucratic system of welfare, in which claimants had clearly defined rights, and in came an administrative form of welfare, based on regulation, where a claimant's needs were to be periodically reviewed and assessed.

Past experiences and much debate had led to a decisively new format for the provision of assistance to those in need. Thus when Government Ministers rose to introduce the National Assistance Bill in late 1947, they scarcely disguised their enthusiasm for its contents or their optimism about the future. Arthur Woodburn, the Scottish Secretary of State, in a highly charged speech, summed up their views by stating:

We establish in this Bill one of the greatest ambitions of our movement -- the establishment of work or maintenance as the moral principle governing the treatment of people who are in need. Under this measure those who get assistance get it without humiliation or abuse. Perhaps the greatest thing about this Bill is that it removes from the treatment of people who are hard hit in life the humiliation which accompanied a great deal of charity in the past. I think that the greatest injury done to the poor in the past was not the fact that they were deprived of food or nourish-

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