Essay on The Poor Law

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The Poor Law

The Poor Law was a system established since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, about two hundred years before the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. In this system the able-bodied poor should be set to work, whilst the others had to be provided for by their parish of birth. By 1795 when the whole system was under strain, an attempted solution was the Speenhamland system also know as the allowance system that was devised in 1795. This was devised to relieve the acute distress of the poor by giving money to families calculated according to the number of children and the price of bread.

As the Poor Law was becoming increasingly costly throughout the years, there had to be change in order
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It was obvious that the same new measures were needed primarily to save money on the rates but also possibly to tackle the causes of poverty. No solution appeared other than the complete abolishment of the poor allowance, which few wanted. Under the allowance system, one could work and receive outdoor relief in the form of cash payments as long as you resided in the parish of your birth. This system was said to encourage laziness as the poor would have no incentive to work hard or to respect their employers as they knew that their parish would look after them. The allowance system was regarded by the ruling class as an ‘unmitigated evil’. Payment of allowances was thought to encourage reckless breeding and immorality and the inflated poor-rates were a grievance burden on agriculture, hindering investment and enterprises, crushing the small tenant or freeholder. Farmers no longer had to pay their labourers decent wages when they could get relief from the parish.

The administration of the Poor relief and contracts for Poor Law work for supplying food, were awarded to local tradesmen rather than put to open tender. Overseers were the ones who would determine who was ‘deserving’ and who was ‘undeserving’. But concerned ratepayers suggested that these two sections were one way in which vested interests were exploiting the system. This led to criticisms towards these as it was believed that
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