The aims and principles of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.
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Module tutor - Stephen Cunningham. The aims and principles of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. In the decades prior to the national reform of the Poor Law in 1834, the characterisations of the administration were of variety rather than uniformity. The social and economic changes at this time produced many problems for those that were responsible for the social welfare. Many areas throughout the country though found solutions to this problem within the legal frame-work of the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1597-1601. In the initial stages the amendment act was set up to reduce the amount of poor rates that were being paid. In the first ten years of the amendment act the amount of relief being paid was reduced to a national average of four million to five million a year. One of the principles of the amendment act was to encourage the 'poor' to work for what they received because poverty was looked upon as the fault of
The idea of the workhouse was to ensure that the poor did not go in search of relief elsewhere. The way to stop this from happening was to reduce the fifteen thousand parishes into six hundred Poor Law unions. There was a great willingness to keep the poor in one place and so by 1843 there was one hundred and ninety seven thousand one hundred and seventy nine poor incarcerated into the workhouses. The workhouses were often described as bastilles. "I do not agree with those who say that every man must look after himself, and that intervention by the state, will be fatal to his self-reliance, his foresight and his thrift.... It is a mistake to suppose that thrift is caused only by fear; it springs from hope as well as fear. Where there is no hope, be sure there will be no thrift".
the saddest thing under the sun.' (http://dspace.dial.pipex.com). Although the New Poor Law did reduce the amount of relief that was paid to individuals, in the long term it created a greater amount of poverty stricken families. It also showed that the New Law was heartless and gave more to the rich than the poor. The hierarchy soon realised that outdoor relief could not be totally abolished, so separate poor law institutions were set up for the young and the sick and in some parishes, boards of guardians paid small weekly amounts to those who were unable to work. 'Two nations: between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners and are not governed by the same laws.' 'You speak of -'said Egremont hesitatingly, 'the rich and the poor.' (Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil 1845, book 2, chapter 5).
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