From the Cradle to the Grave The Interwar Years 1918-1939
The Interwar Years Aims: • Understand the problems caused by high unemployment in the 1930s. • Identify what measures were introduced by the government to help the British people.
The Impact of the Great War • During the First World War the government had to take greater control of the country to cope with wartime problems e.g. food supply. • At the end of the war Lloyd George, the Prime Minister promised a ‘land fit for heroes’. • The war had damaged the economy and caused unemployment. Industries like coal, shipbuilding declined and new industries e.g. car production did not create enough jobs. • The world was hit by an economic ‘depression’ in the 1930s and every country faced high unemployment. • Britain had five governments between 1918-1929 – it was difficult to put plans into practice.
The Problem of Unemployment • 1920 National Insurance for unemployment was extended to workers earning less than £5 a week – except farm labourers, domestic servants and civil servants. • As unemployment rose to around 10% of the workforce by the 1930s the government introduced the ‘dole’ to keep people going once their unemployment insurance ran out after 15 weeks. • By 1931 the government was struggling to cope and they had to cut unemployment benefit by 10%. • The ‘means test’ was introduced – before the dole was given the family’s circumstances would be examined. Everyone’s wages were taken into account e.g. a grown up son or daughter.
Other Welfare Measures • 1918 Education Act – school leaving act raised to 14. • The government grants grants to local councils to encourage the building of council houses – rents were still too expensive for many working people. • 1925 Old Age Pensions Act – gave a pension to people over 65 who had paid enough NI contributions. • The government tried to help areas hardest hit by unemployment e.g. Wales, Scotland, Midlands.
Tasks Read pages 45-46 of your workguide and answer the following questions. • How was unemployment insurance improved in 1920? • Which groups of workers were still not covered? • What was the ‘dole’? • Which areas of the country had the highest numbers of unemployed workers? • How many people were unemployed by 1932? • Why did the government have to cut unemployment benefit in 1931? • What was the means test? Do you think this was fair?