Study notes

Dealing with the Poor

  • Levels: GCSE
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Historically the poor were dealt with at a local level, however, as time went on the Elizabethan government stepped in to help tackle the problem of the poor. At a local level, poor relief was collected from all people and distributed to those in need. The problem of vagrancy existed and towns often whipped and expelled vagrants who were not from their town. As a way to tackle the problem there were three acts which attempted to tackle this issue.

1563: Statute of Artificers:

This had the central aim of making poor relief more effective. Anyone who refused to pay into the poor relief could be sent to prison and in those towns were poor relief was collected poorly the officials would be fined £20, which is equivalent to £5000 today.


1572 Vagabonds Act:

The Vagabonds Act wanted to end the problem of vagrancy in England. It created harsh punishments such as whipping, holes being drilled in ears, prison and even death. However, it also started to tackle unemployment. The act created a register of the poor in each local area, made towns and cities responsible for finding jobs for those idle poor and created a national poor rate.


1576 Poor Relief Act

This act wanted to differentiate between those idle poor and those who were impotent. It made Justices of the Peace provide raw materials for the able bodied poor to make things that they could sell as a business to make money. Raw materials included things like wood, straw and wool. Houses of Correction were also set up where those who refused to work were also sent.


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