Systems of financial support for impaired miners and their families
in Disability in industrial Britain

This chapter outlines the major sources of welfare support to disabled miners in the British coalfields and the attempts made to ameliorate the fall in income that disability too often occasioned. Focusing on financial welfare rather than medical, the chapter highlights the extent to which each source of welfare placed limitations on its claimants, focusing on the experiences of miners themselves in navigating them. Beginning with a consideration of informal kinship and community networks that were drawn upon by disabled miners and their families, it then considers the complexities of the voluntary sphere that ranged from employer paternalism, to charitable effort and working-class mutualism, all of which provided assistance under different conditions, according to different values, and with a variety of consequences for disabled people. Finally, the chapter considers the total redefinition of the role of the state in the lives of disabled miners through the 1880 Employers’ Liability Act and the 1897 Workmen’s Compensation Act. The latter in particular represented and occasioned momentous changes in attitudes towards employers’ responsibility for accidents, but disabled miners experienced this as a mixed blessing as all manner of obstacles were placed in the way of the receipt of compensation.

Disability in industrial Britain

A cultural and literary history of impairment in the coal industry, 1880–1948


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