Social and Economic Reform

  • Created by: Lizzy
  • Created on: 12-01-13 12:06

The Poor Law

The system was old and could not cope with the Agri and Industrial Revolution:

  - Made each parish responsible for their own poor, so out of local tax.

  - Not standardised, some parishes used outdoor relief, some used indoor relief.

  - In rural areas, there was seasonal unemployment.

  - In urban areas, wages for unskilled factory work were low and economic slumps caused sudden waves of unemployment.

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Impact of the new poor law


- Overall spending on poor relief fell by a third although it later rose again.

- This was popular with middle class ratepayers, as it kept the poor rates low.

- The act was phased in gradually, first in the south and then in the north.

- The system was more uniform across the country.

- Merging parishes into unions was more effective - 600 unions instead of 15,000 parishes.

- The basic standard of living, food etc. in the workhouses was mostly not as bad as that of the poorest labourer outside.

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Impact of the poor law continued...


- Ignored the causes of poverty and unemployment and assumed all poor were poor out of their own fault.

- Stoppage of outdoor relief for able caused large hardship.  Thousands of people in full time work did not get a living wage.  The situation would be even worse if there was a bad harvest.

- In the North it was impossible to stop outdoor relief, along with the recession in 1837-38 did not help, this caused riots and protests.

- Poorest parishes faced largest expenses, this meant in 1834 children and good poor were grouped with criminals, prostitutes and lunatics.

- Bad conditions - husbands, wives and children separated, poor diet, backbreaking worj.

- Did not end poverty and seen with fear and suspicion.

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Factory Reform Act

Before the act, hours could be 14 hours a day or more at busy times.  Unfenced machinery, flooding and gas explosions in mines, often lead to injury and death.  Children's growth was stunted, diseases were caused by damp conditions and there were harsh punishments.

in 1833 the Factory Reform Act set out these laws:

- Banned children under 9 from working in textile factories and limited the hours of older children.

- It appointed inspectors for the first time, but only 4.

- I also required 2 hours education per day for factory children, but this was not funded and not enforced.

In 1848, another law was added:

- It limited the hours of under-18s in textiles to 10.  But no regulation was made for adult hours, or of other trades.

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Other social reforms.

Although the poor law and factories act was a big step forward, there were other reforms put in place too:

- Education

There were no acts related to education up to 1833, but the givernment decided to allow money grants to the 2 main church groups providing education. (Anglican Church and The British and Foreign Schools)

The grants were not large, but were increased in 1839 and a school inspectorate was set up to moniter standards.

- Police

A new counties police act in 1839, this allowed counties and boroughs to set up police forces.  E.g. Shropshire set up their first force in 1840, Shrewsbury set up theirs in 1844.

It was not compulsory and less than half the counties had set up a police force. In 1856 police became compulsory.

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Social reforms contiued...

- Prisons

In 1835, Chadwick set up the Prisons Act.

The act empowered the Home Secretaryto appoint up to 5 inspectors who were to make each year, for each prison, a report to the Home Secretary which was laid before Parliament.

The idea was to establish a code of practise and set standards for all prisons.

- Public Health

Chadwick had made an equiry into public health, but before a law could be passed, the Whigs had fallen out of power.

In 1843, Peel decided to make his own equiry into Public Health following the findings of Chadwick's 1842 Sanitary Report and found much the same thing.

But as Peel was tied up with the Irish Famine, it once again fell to the Whigs to sort the problem out.  They responded with a Public Health Act.

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