Did the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act remove outdoor relief? (Measures taken…
Did the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act remove outdoor relief?
Measures taken to remove outdoor relief
Became unlawful to grant relief to an able-bodied pauper
Instead of relief in the past sense, work houses were ran as a form of 'relief' - these were intentionally ran in poor conditions in order to function as a deterrent
Usually the work houses were disciplined enough to discourage resistance
In 1815 - each parish had to look after its own poor
Cost ~£7 mil a year and criticism of the law mounted
Led to 1834 poor law amendment act, with emphasis placed on grants of outdoor relief to the able-bodied - "the
master evil of the present system" (Royal Commission on the Poor Laws. Report, 1834 (4to ed. 1905, Cd. 2728), p. 279.)
However, a form of outdoor relief remained in existence, and overall the poor law amendment failed in preventing it. This is due to both the clumsily vague law writings and the looppholes that entailed, as well as the determination from the boards of guardians to continue providing outdoor relief.
Kept workers' wages low because wages could be covered by poor law
Encouraged the poor to have children which could not be supported
The cost was paid for by the middle and upper classes, who tended to believe that the poor were only poor because they were too lazy to work
Boards of Guardians wanted to keep outdoor relief
Humane issues regarding the ethics of workhouses - of course this was second to economic incentive though
Was cheaper to provide outdoor relief than to run workhouses
Families in workhouses had to be fully maintained, while outdoor relief could be augmented by small earnings and receipts from private charity.
In 1860, while it cost almost 3s. 6d. a week to maintain a pauper in an Eastern Counties workhouse, on outdoor assistance it only cost 1s. 9d. (Horn, 201-2)
Were given plenty of chances to exploit the loopholes
Various loopholes in law
There were many exceptions to the laws. For example, relief for those in 'sudden and urgent necessity', which is also a vague term (Glen, 183)
"A Local Government Board inspector in 1873 found that in London, the provisions of the Regulation Order were being evaded 'by forced construction of exceptions in cases of sudden and urgent necessity'" (Rose 611)
Terms like "able bodied" were vague and never defined in law, e.g there was no clarification about if a temporary aliment would render you to not be 'able-bodied'
Overall, the Poor Law failed to erase outdoor relief due to the loopholes in the law and the cost of running work houses
The economic failures of the poor law, and the fact that it did not stop outdoor relief, was the biggest failure of it; had outdoor relief not continued, the increase in wages could have been more humane than the unsustainable scraping by that was done through outdoor relief, a relief which many had trouble supporting themselves on
It has been argued that the horror of the conditions of the workhouses has been exaggerated; 'they were not responsible for those extravagant cruelties which have so highly coloured the answers of most popular histories"' (Roberts, 107).