Starting from the Old Poor Law (established by Elizabethan Act in 1572) which provided the relief to the poor (provision for work, help to immigrations and compulsory poor rate), and up to the current social security benefits (child support, unemployment, income support, and pensions), the social policy has gone though the number of reforms which have changed the delivery of the social and financial assistance.
In the early 18th century the number of immigrants to Britain has much increases and most of them were living behind the line of poverty. From economic perspective, the situation in the country was stable and, as the result, the government was able to address the needs of the poor. In particular, the workhouses and poorhouses were established where poor could work and satisfy their basic needs. However, the situation has started to change in the 19th century when the industrial revolution fostered the development of the towns and the rapid population growth. From microeconomic perspective, the government was no longer able to deliver social benefits to the poor and the poverty rate doubled (Laybourn 1995). The Poor Law did not meet the needs of people because the increased population was beyond the British ability to provide for and, moreover, the Poor Law was undermining the wages of the independent workers.
The health perspective of social policy was first addressed by the Br...
Medical care remained private and voluntary, even though the number of infirmaries grew rapidly. Interestingly, until 1885, there was the law that required people to be poor in order to use infirmaries (Poynter 1960).
In the early 1900s, the government has laid the foundation of the modern social policy and social services and the infrastructure of the public services was developed. In the period of 1905-1911 the following acts were developed: Unemployment Workmen Act, Education Act (free school meals), School Medical Services, Pension Act, Labour Exchange Act, National Insurance Act. As the result of such governmental concern with the social policy, the delivery of the social services has much improved and the poverty rate significantly reduced. During the inter-war period, the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Contributory Pension Act was introduced which granted the financial assistance to those who were unable to earn for living because of war (Poynter 1960).
The so-called wartime perspective has further influenced the delivery of social policy to British population. In 1942 the National Insurance system was proposed which rested on three perceptions: family allowances, national health service delivery and full employment. The key elements of the welfare state after 1948 included social security, health, housing, education and welfare of children. Unlike the Poor Law that separated these social services, the new social policy was focused on inter-relating the nature of the services as well as emphasizing the importance of each. From theoretical perspective, the Welfare State was not intended to reduce the poverty, but to encourage the provision of social services on the same grounds as roads and libraries (Alcock