Poor laws

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background:

  • BLACK DEATH 1348-1349: 
  • - 1/3 of population killed. 
  • Labour shortage: price of labour went up. Homelessness in crease, Fear of social unrest. 
  • Durking middle ages there was no formal support for the poor-respobsibility for them fell to individual charity or the church: (Longmate 2003) 
  • System ruptured in 1536 with dissolution of monastereies: Henry VIII
  • From then 'parishes were authorised to collect money in order to support the poor who would therefore no longer need to beg" (Faser, 2003) minimal community responsibility for those unable to work. 
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Elizabethan Poor law:

  • 1601: it imposed a 3 way classification system. 
  • impotent poor (the ages, chronic sick, blind etc) 
  • - required insititutional relief, would be accommodated in 'poor houses' 
  • The able-bodied poor: 
  • - set to work in a 'house of correction' to contribute to their substence. 
  • The able-bodied who absconded and prefferred the 'open road' to a 'life of work' 
  • punished in this 'house of correction' 
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Elizabethan Poor law:

  • 1601: it imposed a 3 way classification system. 
  • impotent poor (the ages, chronic sick, blind etc) 
  • - required insititutional relief, would be accommodated in 'poor houses' 
  • The able-bodied poor: 
  • - set to work in a 'house of correction' to contribute to their substence. 
  • The able-bodied who absconded and prefferred the 'open road' to a 'life of work' 
  • punished in this 'house of correction' 
  • Poor returned to places of birth, or last known place they had been for a year, or to last parish they passed through without being punished (Fraser 2003) 
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Elizabethan Poor law:

  • 1601: it imposed a 3 way classification system. 
  • impotent poor (the ages, chronic sick, blind etc) 
  • - required insititutional relief, would be accommodated in 'poor houses' 
  • The able-bodied poor: 
  • - set to work in a 'house of correction' to contribute to their substence. 
  • The able-bodied who absconded and prefferred the 'open road' to a 'life of work' 
  • punished in this 'house of correction' 
  • Poor returned to places of birth, or last known place they had been for a year, or to last parish they passed through without being punished (Fraser 2003) - if someone new can to parish = able to kick them out of the area.
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The Act of Settlement.

1662: 

  • attempt to clarify the issue of settlement. 
  • introduction of settlement certificates. 
  • changed the basis of settlement itself: 
  • - new comers within parish could be removed within 40 days. 
  • - immunity and right to Poor Relief thereafter. 
  • Removal of costly process: 
  • - return not just to last parish, but to parish of settlement 
  • Poor/vagrance would need to get past the 40 days. 
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the Speemhamland System

  • the problem isnt the sick and aged or poor, byt even people with work cant meet their own needs.
  • End of 18th Centruy - rise of prices = problem for everyone not just those with no work. 
  • called this as met in Speenhamland in 1795.
  • a wage supplement to basic minimum, based on need of family (e.g size) and price of bread:
  • - paid for by poor rates = expensive and controversial. 
  • Longmate notes that 'soon almost everywhere, "out-relief" formerly granted reluctantly. at lease to the able-bodied. was given as a duty and a right. a universal rule" - people having to pay for the poor. 
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the Speemhamland System

  • the problem isnt the sick and aged or poor, byt even people with work cant meet their own needs.
  • End of 18th Centruy - rise of prices = problem for everyone not just those with no work. 
  • called this as met in Speenhamland in 1795.
  • a wage supplement to basic minimum, based on need of family (e.g size) and price of bread:
  • - paid for by poor rates = expensive and controversial. 
  • Longmate notes that 'soon almost everywhere, "out-relief" formerly granted reluctantly. at lease to the able-bodied. was given as a duty and a right. a universal rule" - people having to pay for the poor. 
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Towards the 'New' Poor Law:

  • was a substantial debate about what should become of the Eliz poor law, against backdrop of: 
  • Substanial rise in poor rate. from 4 shillings in 1776 - to 9 in 1802 - to 13 in 1818
  • causing swing riots in 1830s - people smashing architecture and machines in labour. 
  • degree of divergence regaurding what should be done: 
  • some such as Jeremy Bentham, though the 'scope of poor relieft out to be restricted' 
  • others (Malthus and Ricardo) though it should be abolished totally (Harris 2004) 
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1834 - New Poor Law:

  • 1832 - royal commission set up to investigate the operation of the Poor Law. 
  • Critical of the Speenhamland system 
  • 'universal system of pauperism': - distinction between oor and being a pauper.
  • destroyed work initative, as encouraged that incomes no longer depended on own efforts (harris 2004) 
  • The Repost contained 3 planks for a new poor law:

1) Principle of less eligibility 

2) workhouse test 

3) centralisatoin and uniformity 

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(1) Principle of less eligibility

  • if wanting to claim relief their conditions would have to be less desirabl or legible.
  • 'the hanger-on should bel ower than him on whom he hangs' (Weber 1924) 
  • attempt to deal with incentive problem,.
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(2) Work house test:

  • relief only given in the workhouse: outdoor relief band.
  • concerned with pauperism of able bodied poor. (webb 1924)  
  • families treated collectively, in order to receive it a man would have to enter workhouse with whole family.... punishment either enter or stay outside and try to make it on their own. 
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(2) Work house test:

  • relief only given in the workhouse: outdoor relief band.
  • concerned with pauperism of able bodied poor. (webb 1924)  
  • families treated collectively, in order to receive it a man would have to enter workhouse with whole family or starve (Longmate 2003). 
  • combination of the priciple of less eligibility and workhouse test would mean that 'only the most server destitution would induce a man to enter it' (Himmelfard 1984) - as it wasnt desired.
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Work house test + principle of less eligibility:

  • Webb - since paupers had to be provided with food, clothing and shelter - something whcih not all labourers could achieve, the workhouse system itself was central principle of less eligibility: 
  • The stigma of pauperism (loss of reputation) 
  • Loss of personal freedon (Detention in a workhouse 
  • Loss of political freedom (Disenfranchisement - losing the right to vote) 
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Centralisation and Uniformity

  • parishes would join together to form Unions of a reasonable size: - controlled by a central board. 
  • Centrepeice of each union would be the workhouse, was the sole soucre of relief for the able-bodied (Longmate 2003) 
  • the day of parish sovereignity, would be over (Fraser 2003) 
  • Since union would be reasonable size, so would building = would be able to house the different categories of paupers. 
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New Poor Law summary:

  • in 1834  report aimed to deter pauperism, not to reduce poverty: the distinction between the 2 was crucial (Frazer 2003)
  • distinction drawn much more clearly than under the old poor law 
  • while under the Old - workhouse intended to make poor contribute to cost of their poor relief. Under New - tried to detter pauperism (Himmelfarb 1984)
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New Poor Law summary:

  • in 1834  report aimed to deter pauperism, not to reduce poverty: the distinction between the 2 was crucial (Frazer 2003)
  • distinction drawn much more clearly than under the old poor law 
  • while under the Old - workhouse intended to make poor contribute to cost of their poor relief. Under New - tried to detter pauperism (Himmelfarb 1984)
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Workhouse structures:

  • different sections of age, capability, gender, race etc. 
  • first and sectond class pauperism.
  • 1st = unable-bodie and defintely needed porr relief. 
  • 2nd = class they wanted to detter from poor relief as they were able-bodied. 
  • separtion with boys and girls to men and women as conditions - harder for adults.
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Workhouse Conditions:

  • once in workhouse - families separated
  • separation was toatl: inmates would eat, sleep and work separatley and would be enclosed in separate yards. (Longmate 2003) 
  • prison style uniform.
  • hard and tedious labour 
  • Harris 2004 - 'meals were montonous and unappetising, were expected to be eaten in silence'

Reports in the times: 

  • 2 children diead of hunger, another forced to eat a mouse. 
  • Women was beaten for smuggling in an ounce of tea
  • man told he could not see his wife, as she had died 3 weeks earlier. 
  • many however were fictional in order to detter people from the workhouse. 
  • Fear of indignity of workhouse. 
  • Fear never leabing except in a box - and buried in 'paupers grave' 
  • fer that bodie of inmates who died in workhouse to be sent to medical school for autopsy (Harris 2004) 
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Workhouse Conditions:

  • once in workhouse - families separated
  • separation was toatl: inmates would eat, sleep and work separatley and would be enclosed in separate yards. (Longmate 2003) 
  • prison style uniform.
  • hard and tedious labour 
  • Harris 2004 - 'meals were montonous and unappetising, were expected to be eaten in silence'

Reports in the times: 

  • 2 children diead of hunger, another forced to eat a mouse. 
  • Women was beaten for smuggling in an ounce of tea
  • man told he could not see his wife, as she had died 3 weeks earlier. 
  • many however were fictional in order to detter people from the workhouse. 
  • Fear of indignity of workhouse. 
  • Fear never leabing except in a box - and buried in 'paupers grave' 
  • fer that bodie of inmates who died in workhouse to be sent to medical school for autopsy (Harris 2004) 
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Application and effect:


Himmelfar 1984: 

  • notes, New poor law prove to be 'less effectual than the reformers wouldh ave liked' 

Fraser (2003) 

  • argues despite these efforts to abolish outdoor relief, and centralise the system, considerable variation remained, that the bast majority of paupers continued to receive outdoor relief in the period after 1834 poor law.
  • Partly due to weaker central commissioner than had been planed: 
  • -house of lords amendemnt
  • boards of gurdians saw workhouse as expensive & impractical to deal with able-bodied pauperism (Harris 2004) 
  • Williams argued that it was successful interm of its aims, since these related to stopping outdoor relief to able-bodied alone? (Harris 2004) 
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Year leading to liberal reforms:

  • progressive abandoning of 'less eligibility' 
  • couples over 60 share rooms as ealry as 1847
  • medical relief Act 1885: allowed sick people to recive treatment from poor law dispensary withouc incurring pauper status (Harris 2003) 
  • Especially in Early 1890s: 
  • 1891: supply of books and toys in workhouse 
  • 1894: tea, mild and suger allowed. 
  • 1890's: most workhouses had libaries
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Conclusion:

  • origins of state responsibility for those in poverty and destitution 
  • 1834 Act - deter pauperism and not to reduce poverty.
  • important principles of provision: less eligibility, workhouse test, and centralisation and uniformity 
  • debate about how much 1834 Act differed from Old poor law: 
  • - outdoor relief continuing afte 1834
  • - more sustantial shift for the able-bodied. 
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Conclusion:

  • origins of state responsibility for those in poverty and destitution 
  • 1834 Act - deter pauperism and not to reduce poverty.
  • important principles of provision: less eligibility, workhouse test, and centralisation and uniformity 
  • debate about how much 1834 Act differed from Old poor law: 
  • - outdoor relief continuing afte 1834
  • - more sustantial shift for the able-bodied. 
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