Local Opinion – Hard Times

Local Opinions

Our newest community reporter Spring Heeled Jack has written a series of short articles which we will share over the next few weeks.

Here is the first instalment of Hard Times

The purpose of this article is to provide a potted social history account of Hard Times, which has affected ordinary people, not only in Great Britain from Dickens time but also in several countries worldwide to the present date, April 28 2016.

It covers many areas, including government policies, different political ideologies, media reporting, propaganda, social policy and worldwide wars with its effects on ordinary people.

As reported by Charles Dickens in his writings; it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Perhaps in Dickens era he was commenting and exemplifying in his writings about the divided society then of rich and poor people, the haves and have not’s. This was pretty accurate in his mind about a broken society where rich people had incredible wealth and on the other hand the poor, with nothing to look forward to but the poorhouse, the workhouse or the debtors’ jail for failing to pay their bills.

We can all recall the book and the film of Oliver Twist holding out a begging bowl with the young orphan in the poorhouse asking the Beadle; Please sir I want some more; regarding his bowl of gruel (watered down porridge), because he was starving.

William Hogarth also made little picture postcards of Gin Alley, which was a visual and pictorial representation of people struggling to survive. Hogarth showed images of prostitution, which took place in Gin Alley, as well as people being seen drunk out of their minds to block their deep suffering and impoverished circumstances.

The situation today is not yet quite as bad as pre Victorian and Edwardian times, but it might be said that Britain is heading this way today in 2016.

The welfare state was set up to deal with social problems in society where people before World War 1 (pre-1914), had no safety net on retiring from work or sickness benefits when falling ill. It was then left to family and friends to rally around and help each other when financial problems arose.

A new beginning-the seeds of the welfare state planted in Great Britain. 

David Lloyd George, the Liberal Prime Minister introduced the nine pence for four pence policy, which was the start of the National Insurance scheme.

Men would thereafter receive an old age pension but women did not qualify until much later. However, many families in Great Britain were seriously affected in financial matters by World War 1 due to the family breadwinner often being killed during this period from 1914-1918, or when seriously incapacitated and consequently unable to work.

At that time many families suffered real hardship due to the loss of the family breadwinner who was the male and father of the family.

Another major issue was the Spanish Flu, which killed many people worldwide, so the British government did not then need to pay out much in the way of an old age pension from 1918 onwards, simply because there weren’t very many men alive to qualify and claim it.

Article submitted by Spring Heeled Jack.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not the Digital Sentinel.

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