Essay about The Poor Law Amendment Act and Tackling Poverty

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The Poor Law Amendment Act and Tackling Poverty

The Poor Law of 1601 was the first to codify the idea of the state to provide for the welfare of its citizens. It distinguished between the 'deserving' and the 'undeserving' poor; relief was local and community controlled.1 The 1834 Poor Law Act Amendment Act was an amendment to the Act for the relief of The English Poor Law of 1601.

The Speenhamland System

The Speenhamland System first saw light of day in 1795. It was introduced by the magistrates in the Berkshire village of Speenhamland in an effort to relieve the extreme poverty, which existed and was adopted widely. It offered any one, or several forms of relief including:

(a) Allowances to supplement earned wages.
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It was a direct violation of the poor person's right to pursue the principle of pleasure; to exercise mans' right to freedom and liberty. The Act was too narrow and far too severe in its remedies. Unlike the more humane Speenhamland System the New Poor Law was inflexible and could not adapt to differing situations. The most devastating remedy was that of the Poor Houses, which were atrocious hellholes.

The Poor Law failed to represent the expectations of the poor community, when most members of the Victorian working classes were likely to be in poverty at some point in their lives. It was accepted that poverty was a natural part of the circle of their lives because of the fluctuations of the environment that had a direct effect on the majority of employment available. Prior to the New Poor Law, relief was seen as an expected right, when unemployed, to keep the able-bodied person fit and well and able to resume expected work when trade resumed.

Victorian Class Structure

The belief systems of the classes need to be examined to explain some of the principles behind the New Poor Law Act.

The Gentry, (Upper Class) usually by right of birth, the upper crust of society owned a large proportion of the lands, held powerful positions within government and were rich. A central belief system that this is their rightful place in society, to pursue and enjoy the pleasures of life, including education and materials. To

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