To address most of the issues raised by the working class and the problems that arose especially with industrialisation, the government of the United Kingdom enacted and made some reforms in the social legislations that would deal with them. An example of these acts is the poor law. The Poor Law Act was amended in 1934 by the parliament to attempt to reform the country’s poverty relief system (Beal 2000). The amendment of this law was influenced by the need to address the increase in poverty levels among the peasants and working class as a result of the industrial revolution.
It is also argued that the ruling class supported the act so that peasants and working class could be kept under strict control to avoid organisations such as the French evolution from occurring. The New Poor Law sought to abolish outdoor relief and to force applicants into the workhouse, where family set ups broke as wives and husbands were separated. Parents were also separated from their children. It included joining together of small parishes to form poor law unions and the building of workhouses for the poor in each union for the giving of poor relief.
The parliament appointed citizens of the parish who were usually rich to run these unions (Brown 1991). The reason the Act involved parishes in the Poor Law Unions was so that the relief could be provided more easily. Before 1840, outdoor relief was not banned, but afterwards, it was discouraged and the only way poor families would get relief was if they entered a work house. The work house was despised as they were more of prisons and usually separated families, the food was poor and the people had to wear uniforms.
The only advantages of the Poor Law Unions were that the act had provisions that aimed at eliminating discrimination against the minority such as the Catholics. The act also tried to ensure that the needs of less eligible were met. There were however protests against the Poor Law from workers, some politicians and religious leaders. The conditions of the workhouses were said to be harsh and inhumane. It was also becoming expensive for the government to build these workhouses and provide the relief. Moreover, it was argued that some of the parishes were manipulating the workhouses to function so as to suite their own interests.
There was also no equality in the system as the poverty levels in all the parishes were different. Some parishes were more developed hence had more resources than others. The organised opposition from all these groups eventually resulted into amendments being made. These reduced the harsh and inhuman conditions on the workhouses to some level. Later in 1947, the poor Law Commission was abolished as it was associated with abuses of the poor people in the workhouses (Renton, Robertson, Pollock & Bowstead 1907).
The main force for this abolishment was the Andover Workhouse scandal where the parish was accused of having very harsh inhuman and abusive conditions in the workhouses.
Beal Edward. (2000) Cardinal Rules of Legal Interpretation. Williams Hein & Co. p272. Brown Richard. (1991). Church and Sate in Modern Britain, 1700-1850. Taylor & Francis. p. 255 Hamilton Sewell. W. (1980). Work and Revolution in France: the Language of Labor from the Old Regime to 1848. Cambridge University Press, p.222
Heywood Colin (2002). Childhood in Nineteenth-Century France: Work, Health and Education Among the ‘Classes Populaires’. Cambridge University Press, p. 23 Hudson Pat. (1996). The Industrial Revolution. Oxford University Press US, 6th Edition. Renton. W, Robertson. M, Pollock. F and Bowstead. W. (1907). Encyclop? dia of the Laws of England with Forms and Precedents by the Most Eminent Legal Authorities: With Forms and Precedents by the Most Eminent Legal Authorities. Sweet & Maxwell, p294.