Until 1834 poor
relief was provided by parishes. Each parish appointed two 'Overseers',
who collected poor rates from the ratepayers and then used the money
to help the poor. There was no one system and each parish could do very
much what it liked.
amount spent on poor relief was £1,520,000.
were allowed to group together to build workhouses.
Speenhamland System was set up in Berkshire. This allowed weekly payments
to the poor from Poor Rates. The amount handed out varied according
to the price of bread and the number of people on the family. When a
large loaf of bread cost 5p, the man received 15p and his wife and each
of his children received 71/2p.
This system was
used in twenty counties in the south of England and the Midlands.
amount spent on poor relief was £4,078,000.
amount spent on poor relief was £6,799,000.
amount spent on poor relief was £7,037,000.
A Royal Commission was set up to investigate the Poor Law.
The Royal Commission published its report.
The Poor Law
Amendment Act was passed.
The Act abolished all existing systems for giving poor relief and forced
all parishes to form unions and build Union Workhouses. Rules for workhouses
were published and all Unions had to follow them. These included the
meals that the poor were to be given, work, education of children, the
wearing of uniform, splitting up of families and many others. Workhouses
were to offer a standard of living lower than anything available outside.
This was called 'less eligibility'.
poor had to go into a workhouse if they needed relief; this was called
'indoor relief'. But Unions could give 'outdoor relief', especially
to the old, the sick and young children.
The Act was
based upon the belief that poverty was caused by laziness, and that
the best way to tackle the problem was to make the consequences of poverty
so unpleasant that people would do anything to avoid going into the
At first the
Act was only applied to the south of England, where it worked reasonably
The New Poor Law, as it came to be known, was introduced in the north
of England. This proved much more difficult. In the northern industrial
towns the whole workforce could be unemployed whenever there was a slump
in trade. It was impossible to find room for all the poor in the workhouses.
Poor Law Commission introduced the 'Labour Test'. This allowed able-bodied
men to be given work outside the workhouse if there was no room for
Andover Scandal revealed some of the worst aspects of the New Poor Law.
At the Andover Workhouse the inmates had been forced to fight for bones
Poor Law Commissioners were replaced by the Poor Law Board.
Charles Booth, a wealthy ship-owner, began a survey of the poor in London.
His results were published in 1901. He showed the extent of deprivation
that existed in the poorest districts of the capital.
1899 Seebohm Rowntree began a survey of the poor in York. He proved
that poverty was hardly ever caused by laziness. He found that in 52%
of the cases in York, it was caused by low pay. Rowntree's report was
a major factor in the decision of the Liberal government to introduce
the first stage of the Welfare State in the years from 1906.
Poor Law remained in force throughout the nineteenth century. Workhouses
did not finally disappear until the Poor Law was abolished in 1929.