People and poverty
There was help for poor people in the 1800s, but changes to the law in 1834 made it much harder for people to find help.
The Poor Law was the way that the poor were helped in 1815. The law said that each parish had to look after its own poor. If you were unable to work then you were given some money to help you survive. However, the cost of the Poor Law was increasing every year. By 1830 it cost about £7 million and criticism of the law was mounting.
In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed by Parliament. This was designed to reduce the cost of looking after the poor as it stopped money going to poor people except in exceptional circumstances. Now if people wanted help they had to go into a workhouse to get it. The poor were given clothes and food in the workhouse in exchange for several hours of manual labour each day. Families were split up inside the workhouse. People had to wear a type of uniform, follow strict rules and were on a bad diet of bread and watery soup. Conditions were made so terrible that only those people who desperately needed help would go there.