Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!
Print

History

People and poverty

Page:

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  1. Next

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

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.

  • The money was raised by taxes on middle and upper class people, causing resentment. They complained that money went to people who were lazy and did not want to work.
  • Critics also suggested that allowance systems made the situation worse because they encouraged poor people to have children that they could not afford to look after.
  • Another criticism of the old Poor Law was that it kept workers' wages low because employers knew that wages would be supplemented by money provided by the Poor Law.

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act

illustration of men sitting in rows in squalid conditions chopping wood in a workhouse

men chopping wood in a workhouse

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.

Page:

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  1. Next

Back to British society - 1815-1851 index

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.