Lord George

Poor Law It is obvious that current problems in the modern society are deeply rooted in the history. Nevertheless the social policy settings had been “shaped by attitudes and institutions formed under very different conditions in the past” (Anne Digby, 1989, 5) The old poor law had been further developed in 1834 because there were some issues which needed to be solved in order for the poor law to be more efficient. One of the features of the old poor law was that it relied on the parish which was considered to be a part of government. Shockingly the parish had unpaid and inexperienced staff.

The old poor law was criticized for being “over-generous welfare payments and the unbearably heavy costs this imposed on local rate-payers, on whom the finance of poor relief fell” (Anne Digby 1989, 30) The old poor law categorised the poor into two groups in order to successfully deal with them. The impotent poor included those who were the aged, sick, or insane. This group were classified as reliant because they would work but couldn’t due to their circumstances. The other group included able bodied who could work but wouldn’t. The treatment towards this group was very harsh.

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Violence against them was chosen so that the able-bodied realised the error of their actions. (M. A CROWTHER 1981) After the year 1700 workhouses were the new idea that would enable the poor law to be more controllable. The workhouses were built so that the paupers could support themselves by working. Eventually the outcome of this idea was not as expected because of growth in unemployment and low wages. As a consequence it forced the governors to give home relief in 18th century. The workhouse was deliberately created as a harsh and ‘no go area’ so that only the deserving pauper would apply.

Men, women and children were kept separate from each other. The parents had to give up their children to be educated and disciplined. In other words Workhouses had a self-image similar to prison but the inmates were punished for poverty. However workhouses were a threat to some people. For example the widows knew very well that they should have ideal life style. If they are proved to be thrifty, drunken and etc, they would be removed to the workhouse so that they learn from their mistakes and children’s wouldn’t be influenced from their mother’s actions. (M. A CROWTHER 1981)

In 1904 poor law conference renamed the ‘workhouses’ with the term ‘state home’ or ‘state infirmary’ and it was the time to improve the general image of workhouses. They should be the home of the aged and the deserving poor and no longer a refuge for the able-bodied men and women. The governors wanted to build hospitals, asylums and care homes for the disabled which could all have influence on the population of workhouses. But the Great War had ended all these plans despite that desire was strong and the national problem had once again affected the poor law. (M. A CROWTHER 1981, 92) All the expenditure was then spent on war.

Eventually From 1913 onwards during the first world war, number of boards of guardians wanted the workhouses to be transferred to military use such as hospitals, accommodation for military personnel and prisoners of the war. Thankfully the liberal welfare system took action and made important contribution to reduce the pauperism after 1910 and evidently they were successful. With its help the outdoor pauperism fell by 45% and the indoor by 25%. In addition female, widows and unmarried ladies pauperism decreased as they were applying for jobs more than ever before and employers were not in a position to discriminate them.(M. A CROWTHER 1981, 92)

Nevertheless war also had a positive impact on the population of workhouses where it removed the unemployed and other types, but did not imply on the other groups which are the old, mentally disabled and the helpless. In 1920 the 30% of the workhouses paupers were over the age of 70. However the introduction of Pension Act 1908 was illustrated to keep people out of the workhouses but some people were refused to receive pension because they never worked during their life and were classified as non-deserving.

Only those that are over the age on 70 were eligible to receive 5s a week or 7s 6d to married couples. The pension money kept elderly happy and thanked Lord George for its efforts to overcome poverty. (Gazeley I, 2003) Speenhamland system was another effort which was created to relieve the worrying problems of poverty. The relief would vary depending on the pauper for example the relief would be calculated on the number of children a man had and the market price of bread. However along with this system continuous arguments had emerged.


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