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British Course Essay

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British Course Essay Apart from slight amendments like the laws of settlement and gilberts act, the poor law of 1601 had remained in place right until 1834. The system was very old and outdated and was becoming increasingly more expensive. In 1831, 7 million pounds had been spent on provision for the poor. Not only that but the system lacked unity and 10 per cent of the population were paupers. The government was facing more and more criticism from intellectuals and writers because inefficient systems like the Speenhamland system which subsidised low wages based on how many children, labourers had and the price of bread. Subsidies like this and other old systems only encouraged corrupt land owners to lower wages. In 1832 a commission had been set up to investigate the old system and make recommendations. Of all the parishes in England and Wales, only 10 per cent had been investigated. Although for a time of very primitive bureaucratic procedures it needs to be recognised that such a survey in itself groundbreaking. However aside from that it is debated that the commission already had a conclusion before it even began its investigation and merely set out to support the recommendations they had decided on. The commission wanted to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor and wanted to stop exploitation of an over generous solution and relieving the burden on the rate payer. ...read more.


The number of assistant commissioners had to be increased and even then it has hard for them to make a sustained impact. With responsibility for large areas, close supervision was very difficult. The commissions desire to play down failures and publicise success meant that administrative problems tended to be ignored rather than dealt with. This meant that the commission exercised a much lower degree of centralisation than had been expected. Yet despite the problems they faced the assistant commissioners generally succeeded in establishing the new unions. Under the old poor law each of the 15,000 parishes in England and Wales was responsible for the relief of poverty in its own area. Now the aim was to amalgamate parishes into about groups of 30, each managed by a board of guardians. The boards of guardians were to be elected by the ratepayers of the whole area, with each parish having at least one representative on board. This aim can be seen as fulfilled and successful as by 1840 14,000 parishes with a total population of about 12 million had been incorporated into poor law unions. Only 800 parishes, containing about 2 million people remained outside the system. Each union was responsible for the workhouse in its area. Under the old poor law the local parish workhouse or poorhouse, where they existed as many parishes didn't have one, had often been seen as a relatively unthreatening or and even friendly institution. ...read more.


The central authority finally gave in to the rural south and northern England in particular and workhouses were allowed to be replaced by out door labour as the condition of relief. By 1871 only one in six unions was operating under the 1844 order which banned outdoor relief to the able bodied. One of the central policies of the new poor law had proved impossible to implement. By 1841 the poor law amendment act had partly achieved its aims. It was successful on reducing costs and provisions for the poor, relieving the burden on the rate payers. It also successfully managed to group nearly all the parishes into poor law unions. Where it failed was with the workhouses and the abolition of outdoor relief. Many places, mainly in the north continued with outdoor relief and many hadn't even set up new workhouses. Workhouses had been set up though, mainly in the south and succeeded in providing a deterrent as nobody wanted to go in them. But outdoor relief was a constant struggle as it just wasn't possible as the new industrial economy kept plunging thousands of workers in and out of unemployment and periodic trade depressions were characteristic. The poor law amendment act had dealt with unified parishes across the country, a central authority and making a more cost efficient system, but completely misjudged the situation of poverty and so wasn't resolved by 1841. ...read more.

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