Influences of the New Poor Law on Contemporary Welfare Reforms

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27th Mar 2019 Social Policy Reference this

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Since 2010 there has been a multitude of problems that have arisen which indicates how much of the New Poor Law’s (1834) ideologies and beliefs have influenced today’s social policy. One can tell by looking at depth into the current welfare reforms how many ‘Victorian values’ have been carried out today from the new poor law’s influence and how the aims and approach to reducing the issue, although being executed slightly differently, when broken down are taking the same approach that the poor law did. When it comes to the poor law, the problem was how to reduce the mass of apparent or self-declared poverty to the hard core of the genuine article. This was done by means of deterrent effect of the workhouse test and the principle of ‘less-eligibility’ (the condition of the pauper must be less attractive that that of the poorest person outside this category). There were many disagreements around what should be done with the hardcore of the genuine poor, whether they should be treated as unfortunate citizens or as social outcasts. No clear answer was agreed upon and in the soil of this perturbation of mind lay the seeds of the first great social reforms of the twentieth century (Marshall, 1989). Following this was the shift from the deserving to the undeserving poor meaning that the cost of welfare rose. Other Victorian Values include; a limited role from state, the idea that poverty was the fault of the individual, and that charities are there to support the poor. The Victorian Values are echoed in 1979 and again in 2010 when one sees the conservative liberal democrats coalition government and the movement to a solely conservative government.

Before assessing the influences of the new poor law on social policy today, one needs to look at the state’s shift from Market Liberal to Social Democrat and understand the effects. Market Liberal and Social Democrat differ in not just one way; Market liberal believe that the state should play a limited role in people’s lives but also believe in a low tax economy, so people get better value for money from public services. They believe that benefits should target the most in need, they are consumer and stakeholder driven. Social Democrats believe that the state should redistribute wealth via higher taxation, that everyone should have a fair share, and they approach it with a “one size fits all” ideology. There are two major factors that explain the current wave of social welfare reforms and cuts, the first being the financial crisis of 2008 and the second being linked to the 2010 elections. The Financial Crisis of 2008 was caused by the collapsing of the “sub-prime” mortgage market in the U.S. This caused various banks to go out of business and the world was plunged into a recession (Elliot, 2011). The Elections in 2010 produced a “hung parliament” meaning the formation of a coalition government of conservatives and Liberal Democrats was led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, two former public-school students (BBC News: Elections, 2010). The financial crisis led to a policy of austerity meaning immense cuts for public services. As the world was in a period of recession the levels of state dependency and poverty rose. These influences on the shift from Market Liberal to Social Democrat show that slowly the state is circling back to the ideas of Victorian Values, therefore we need to know what’s influencing the change back to that perspective.

One signification politician that played a large part in the welfare reform enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in March 2012 is Iain Duncan Smith. Iain Duncan Smith, previous leader of the conservative party was appointed secretary of the Department of Work and Pension to which he created the new welfare reform; Universal credit. Iain Duncan Smith argued that the reason successive governments ignored the requirement for a fundamental welfare reform, as they thought it was too difficult to achieve further reasoning that they “watched as economic growth bypassed the poor and welfare dependency took root in communities throughout the country therefore leading to intergenerational poverty”. He continues to argue that the Government has spent large sums of money, but the poor have become poorer and prosperity is harder to reach. The key reason for Iain Duncan Smith’s remodel of the welfare system was due to the welfare bill becoming unsustainably expensive and the real price of failure being paid by the poorest and the most vulnerable themselves, over five million people are receiving out of work benefits in the UK and 1.4 million of them have been claiming for over nine years. His aim was to create a reform that tackles the underlying problem of welfare dependency by embarking on the most extensive programme of change that the welfare system has seen in generations (Department For Work and Pension, 2010). From this Iain Duncan Smith introduced Universal Credit. Marketed as “welfare that works”, it aims to make claimants realise they are better off in work therefore reducing welfare dependency encouraging them to earn money and not live off the little to which they receive through Universal Credit. One can see the reforms that are being introduced by Iain Duncan Smith reflects the key values of the New Poor Law by looking simply at how they both put work at the centre, with the aim to reduce welfare dependency. One can also see that Victorian Values are being echoed through Iain Duncan Smith’s reform, which became clear during his speech to which he implied that individuals oversee their own lives therefore are responsible for their own poverty, circling back to the Victorian Value of the deserving poor which is very similar to the Poor Law (Reform, 2015).

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith aimed to bring in these welfare reforms, the government cannot implement any changed without a consensus which results in the public supporting its views. Much like in 1834 when the New Poor Law was introduced, the public view’s have cycled back from viewing the poor as undeserving back to the deserving. It could be argued that this is mainly down to the amount of media that is around which investigates the lives of claimants. These sort of media are most commonly known as ‘poverty porn’ as they give people in middle class and working class a sense of achievement looking into the lives of people who are dependant on the state. The poor within the media are reflected to be the cause of their condition, with television shows focusing on the more expensive things inside the claimant’s home allowing the audience to assume that the reason of the claimants condition is due to their individual laziness, lack of ability to save and treating income as if it was disposable on illegal substances, alcohol and cigarettes rather than correctly spending it. This was also implied by Iain Duncan Smith in his speech to which he mentioned that increasing the amount of money claimants get would only cause them to spend more money on those things, directly showing his influence from the Victorian values as he believes the poor are responsible for their own poverty. Shows such as “Benefit Street”, “Benefits: Too Fat to Work” and “Benefits Britain: Life on The Dole” explore the ‘reality’ – or what the media wants the audience to believe is the reality – of living on benefits. The programmes allow the audience to view the living conditions of claimants usually portraying them in a negative way by making sure footage includes claimants with cigarettes, footage of rubbish and males usually indulging in alcohol (Patrick, 2017). The whole portrayal of people on these shows echo’s the classic stereotype of what poverty is perceived as in Britain and echo’s massively the Victorian values which Iain Duncan Smith is bringing back of claimants being to fault for their poverty.

As mentioned above, a key aspect of Victorian Values that seems to be circling back into today’s social policy is the issue of deserving and the undeserving poor. The ideology of the deserving and the undeserving poor stated that some people was deserving of their condition and others weren’t. Britain shifted from deserving to undeserving poor back when the Poor Law was reformed and seems to be now shifting back to the perspective of people being deserving of their condition. People would see the deserving as those who have larger families, and see people as too lazy to work, while the undeserving are those with physical disabilities stopping them from getting a job, the elderly and the mentally ill. The perspectives of people being deserving of their poverty seems to be how modern Britain is looking at claimants in modern Britain, therefore implying that the poor law and its values are influencing todays social policy.

Since Universal Credit was introduced there has been a significant rise in the amount of people visiting food banks. This is due to the limited role in which the state is playing, and they are leaving those in poverty to reach out to charities for help or await help from charities, The Poor Law had a similar approach, in the time of the New Poor Law the state would play a limited role in people lives, opting for a more negative freedom approach to which, clearly, modern Britain is circling back to showing the clear connection the perception shaping back to how people used to view the poor back in the 19th century. The values of the Poor Law are echoed throughout todays social policy by electing charities as a key source of help for the poor again as it was when the poor law was the public agency for giving aid to the helpless (The Guardian, 2012).

Another key aspect of Universal Credit which echo’s the approach to which the New Poor Law took to reducing poverty and helping the poor is the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Personal Independence Payment allows people who suffer from a long-term illness or disability to access extra funding, anyone who meets the criteria between the ages of 16 and 64 can get up to £141 a week by claiming depending on how the condition affects you. In order to receive Personal Independence Payment, the claimant must be assessed by a health professional to work out how much help they are eligible to, and the claimant will have regular appoints to review that they are getting the right support. Personal Independence Payment replaces Disability Living Allowance (The National Archives, 2013). This introduction reinforces the Victorian value of the undeserving poor and deserving as it is redefining who is deserving of disability benefits and making those people attend regular reviews to make sure that they are correctly claiming (Donnison & Whitehead, 2016). It’s clear that the aim of changing from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment that the government are trying to reduce the amount of welfare dependency. Therefore, reflecting directly the same aims of the Poor Law.

From a brief analysis of the aims, beliefs, and ideology of the new welfare reforms, and comparing those to the aims, beliefs, and ideology of the Poor Law one can see a clear correlation between the values of Universal Credit and the Poor Law 1834 and that the Poor Law has extensively influenced modern Britain’s opinion on the poor. As the generation and the population is forever changing the welfare state and social policy will forever need to be changing to keep up with how vast the population is changing. Therefore, the welfare state is bound to try and use the outline of approaches from earlier years but differ some details to try and improve it to be more efficient.

References

  • Allen, K. & Neville, S., 2016. Universal credit to cut welfare spending by £2.7bn a year. Financial Times, 3 February.
  • BBC News: Elections, 2010. Election 2010: First hung parliament in UK for decades. [Online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8667071.stm [Accessed 10 March 2018].
  • Bloom, D., 2017. Tory ministers have rewritten the law to deny increased disability benefit payments to more than 150,000 people. Mirror, 23 February.
  • Bonger, W., 1916. The present economic system. Vancouver: Political Economy Club.
  • Cohen, N., 2017. Universal credit is a shambles because the poor are ignored. The Guardian, 23 September.
  • Collini, S., 1979. Liberalism and Sociology: Hobhouse and Political Argument in England. 2nd ed. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Donnison, S. & Whitehead, H., 2016. PIP Claims. [Online] Available at: https://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/personal-independence-payment-pip/pip-claims [Accessed 6 March 2018].
  • Elliot, L., 2011. Global financial crisis: five key stages 2007-2011. The Guardian, 7 August.
  • Freeden , M., 1986. The New Liberalism. s.l.:Clarendon Press.
  • Gilbert, B., 1970. British Social Policy 1906-1939. 2nd ed. s.l.:Batsford.
  • Hay, J., 1983. The Origins of The Liberal Welfare Reforms. 1st ed. London: Macmillan.
  • Kampfner, J., 2008. Margaret Thatcher, inspiration to New Labour. The Telegraph, 17 April.
  • Leach , R., 2009. Political Ideology In Britain. 2nd ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Maddox, D., 2017. Tough benefits cap stops scroungers claiming thousands of pounds. Daily Express, 3 February.
  • Marshall, T. H., 1989. Social Policy. 3rd ed. London: Hutchinson & Co LTD.
  • Matthews-King, A., 2017. UK’s rising use of food banks reveals ‘unfolding public health crisis’, finds study. The Independent, 21 November.
  • Merrick, R., 2017. Universal credit shake-up will send poor families to food banks for Christmas, warn Labour MPs. Independant, 7 August.
  • Murray, P., 1999. Access To History: Poverty and Welfare 1830-1914. 1st ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Patrick, R., 2017. Inaccurate, exploitative and very popular: the problem with ‘poverty porn’. [Online] Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/for-whose-benefit/ [Accessed 13 March 2018].
  • Pennington, J. d., 2011. Beneath the Surface: A Country of Two Nations. [Online]
  • Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/bsurface_01.shtml [Accessed 13 March 2018].
  • Reform, 2015. Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP: speech on work, health and disability. [Online]
  • Available at: http://www.reform.uk/publication/rt-hon-iain-duncan-smith-mp-speech-on-work-health-and-disability/ [Accessed 10 March 2018].
  • Stevenson , J., 1984. British Society 1914-1945. s.l.:Penguin.
  • The Guardian, 2012. Rich and poor: deserving and undeserving. The Guardian, 27 January.
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2017. Inaccurate, exploitative, and very popular: the problem with ‘Poverty Porn’. [Online] Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/for-whose-benefit/ [Accessed 10 March 2018].
  • The National Archives, 2013. The Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013. [Online] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2013/9780111532072/contents [Accessed 2018 March 10].
  • Wintour, P., 2010. Duncan Smith shakes up benefits in bid to cut costs and increase job incentives. The Guardian, 29 July.

Bibliography

  • Allen, K. & Neville , S., 2016. Universal credit to cut welfare spending by £2.7bn a year. Financial Times, 3 February.
  • BBC News: Elections, 2010. Election 2010: First hung parliament in UK for decades. [Online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8667071.stm [Accessed 10 March 2018].
  • Bloom, D., 2017. Tory ministers have rewritten the law to deny increased disability benefit payments to more than 150,000 people. Mirror, 23 February.
  • Bonger, W., 1916. The present economic system. Vancouver: Political Economy Club.
  • Cohen, N., 2017. Universal credit is a shambles because the poor are ignored. The Guardian, 23 September.
  • Collini, S., 1979. Liberalism and Sociology: Hobhouse and Political Argument in England. 2nd ed. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Donnison, S. & Whitehead, H., 2016. PIP Claims. [Online] Available at: https://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/personal-independence-payment-pip/pip-claims [Accessed 6 March 2018].
  • Elliot, L., 2011. Global financial crisis: five key stages 2007-2011. The Guardian, 7 August.
  • Freeden , M., 1986. The New Liberalism. s.l.:Clarendon Press.
  • Gilbert, B., 1970. British Social Policy 1906-1939. 2nd ed. s.l.:Batsford.
  • Hay, J., 1983. The Origins of The Liberal Welfare Reforms. 1st ed. London: Macmillan.
  • Kampfner, J., 2008. Margaret Thatcher, inspiration to New Labour. The Telegraph, 17 April.
  • Leach , R., 2009. Political Ideology In Britain. 2nd ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Maddox, D., 2017. Tough benefits cap stops scroungers claiming thousands of pounds. Daily Express, 3 February.
  • Marshall, T. H., 1989. Social Policy. 3rd ed. London: Hutchinson & Co LTD.
  • Matthews-King, A., 2017. UK’s rising use of food banks reveals ‘unfolding public health crisis’, finds study. The Independent, 21 November.
  • Merrick, R., 2017. Universal credit shake-up will send poor families to food banks for Christmas, warn Labour MPs. Independant, 7 August.
  • Murray, P., 1999. Access To History: Poverty and Welfare 1830-1914. 1st ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Patrick, R., 2017. Inaccurate, exploitative and very popular: the problem with ‘poverty porn’. [Online] Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/for-whose-benefit/ [Accessed 13 March 2018].
  • Pennington, J. d., 2011. Beneath the Surface: A Country of Two Nations. [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/bsurface_01.shtml [Accessed 13 March 2018].
  • Reform, 2015. Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP: speech on work, health and disability. [Online] Available at: http://www.reform.uk/publication/rt-hon-iain-duncan-smith-mp-speech-on-work-health-and-disability/ [Accessed 10 March 2018].
  • Stevenson , J., 1984. British Society 1914-1945. s.l.:Penguin.
  • The Guardian, 2012. Rich and poor: deserving and undeserving. The Guardian, 27 January.
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2017. Inaccurate, exploitative, and very popular: the problem with ‘Poverty Porn’. [Online] Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/for-whose-benefit/ [Accessed 10 March 2018].
  • The National Archives, 2013. The Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013. [Online] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2013/9780111532072/contents [Accessed 2018 March 10].
  • Wintour, P., 2010. Duncan Smith shakes up benefits in bid to cut costs and increase job incentives. The Guardian, 29 July.

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