Nassau Senior was influenced by Jeremy Bentham who believed that individuals should be allowed to sort out their own problems. In this way, in Bentham’s view, the greatest possible number of people would gain the greatest amount of happiness. These views became known as Utilitarianism.
The commissioners put forward the suggestion that the workhouse test should be implemented. The workhouse test meant that the workhouse would be made into a sparse, foreboding and hardworking place to the outside world. The conditions would have to be worse than the lowest paid worker, so that only the truly desperate would enter them.
The inmates had to have written permission to go out or to receive visitors. This was a good way to institutionalise the inmates, making them less rebellious and making the conditions seem worse on the outside. They were also disallowed beer and tobacco, this was mainly because the commissioners were strong Christians so did not believe in these things.
Outdoor relief would be banned for the able-bodied poor. ‘First all relief of any kind to able bodied persons or to their families, other than in well regulated workhouses, shall be unlawful and shall cease’. This statement implies that they will give outdoor relief to the deserving poor, such as the old, sick and young, but not to the able bodied poor.
The commissioners class people into four groups, ‘(1) The aged and really impotent; (2) The children; (3) the able-bodied females; (4) The able-bodied males.’ They do this so that they can easily specify who they want to go into the workhouses and who they wish to go into a House of Correction. They state that they ‘trust the last two groups to be the least numerous’, this is because they believe that the able-bodied males and females should be able to find work. This implies that they truly want to help the deserving poor.
The commission also states that the different groups should be ‘kept in separate buildings rather than under the same roof’. This is to increase the undesirability of entering the workhouse because the families would be separated if they entered it. This also could be construed that they will place the able-bodied poor and the deserving poor into separate institutions. They did in fact place the able-bodied poor into Houses of Correction, because they believed them to be idle.