Summary of the Elizabethan Poor Laws

60 decades ago, the British government identified the pressing need of providing human services for the less fortunate. The creation of the first Elizabethan Poor Law or The Poor Law of 1601 made this evident. The Elizabethan Poor Law is a collection of laws serving human rights by distribution of relief goods for the poor. The law was administered by the parish to provide food, clothing, or monetary services to some impoverished, disabled, and even the mentally- challenged citizens in the communities of Wales and England.

The parish church is in charge of ensuring equal distribution of goods and services among the poor in their designated districts, and they assign an overseer or supervisor to manage the process of the relief giving. The Poor Law of 1601 has 3 main features which include: 1) the obligatory giving of tithes to the parish for fund raising for the poor; 2) the beneficiaries are classified according to their capacity to work; and 3) the poor are ensured with the services they need provided that they are no longer receiving any familial or marital support (Woodside, 2005).

The Elizabethan Poor Law is grounded on the main goal of providing human services for the people. It is enacted to promote the social welfare of the citizens in Britain, especially the needy. The relief is carried out in two forms: either indoor or outdoor, although the latter costs cheaper and is mostly preferred by the citizens. This act was met with many varied criticisms due to its negative effects, such as the population explosion of urban areas.

Many citizens from the rural areas migrated to the urban regions just to benefit from the relief, resulting in an increase in the population of the urban areas. However, the British government improved the Poor Law act and created many laws as inspired by it (Woodside, 2005).


Woodside, M. (2005). Introduction to human services. USA: Thomson Learning.