Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Poor Laws

Poor Laws are those provisions which are made in Great Britain for regulating the support of the indigent poor. The need of tbem was hardly felt before the Reformation, since the monasteries and religious houses supported great numbers, while the Church encouraged alms-giving as a pious practice. Hence, each neighbourhood easily supported its own poor. Under Henry VIII. the question began to be pressing, and was met by parochial collections under legally authorised clerical pressure. In 1601 the Act 43 Eliz. began the foundation of our present poor law system by creating overseers who had power to raise money to grant in sums for relief, or to provide work for the poor. Workhouses became general under an Act of 1723; unions of parishes were authorised in 1782. Later, especially during the French wars, out-door relief became prevalent, the justices were made the relieving authority (1815), and (in the country) paupers were commonly assigned as labourers to the various farmers in a parish. The relief thus kept wages down, and was given so recklessly that rates in some parishes reached 20s. in the ?. The system "discouraged thrift and acted as a premium on vice." The Act of 1834, passed as the result of a Parliamentary Commission, established the present system in outline and instituted a central control, vested since 1871 in the Local Government Board. The discretion of giving either out-door or in-door relief has existed since 1834. The Scotch and Irish systems closely approximate to that of England.