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Lecture 4 - Implementation of the Poor Law and the Famine

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Eoin Carroll

on 23 January 2013

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Transcript of Lecture 4 - Implementation of the Poor Law and the Famine

Poor Law (The Poor Relief Act 1838) and the Famine  Essential Reading:
Considine, Mairead and Dukelow, Fiona (2009) Irish Social Policy: A critical Introduction Dublin: Gill and Macmillan pps 2-12
 Additional Reading
Burke, Helen, (1987) The People and The Poor Law in 19th Century Ireland. Sussex: Women’ Education Bureau (WEB). Chapters I and II (Black Board)
Gray, Peter (2006) 'The Irish Poor Law and the Famine', IEHC 2006 Helsinki Session 123, Helsinki: http://www.helsinki.fi/iehc2006/papers3/Gray.pdf

See also:
Relevant Lectures from Social Policy Concepts READING LIST Expectations of The Poor Relief (Ireland) Act (1838) Expectations of The Poor Relief (Ireland) Act (1838) Heavily adapted from Judy O'Shea's notes SS1765: THE IRISH WELFARE STATE:
THE POOR LAW and the FAMINE 1838 Nicholls Eoin Carroll, ecarroll@jcfj.ie Nicholls' belief in the Act
Not be expected to work miracles:
It would not immediately give employment or capital;
Would serve to help the country through what may be called its transition period;
With the aid of other circumstances, would effect a material improvement in the condition of the Irish people.
Poor laws could not be expected to cope with conditions of famine
(Gray, 2006) 'For the welfare of all classes' - Russell (Home Secretary)

indirect effect of inducing the poor to seek work (Morpeth)

Penal instrument to force modernisation (The Whigs)

Change irresponsible behaviour of the Irish (see Gray, 2006) INFLUENCE OF THE FAMINE AND POOR LAW ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF IRISH SOCIAL POLICY The implementation of the poor law in Ireland proved to be extremely expensive.

it cost £9, 044,528 between 1839-1851
over a million pounds in 1852 and 1853
decreased after the famine
rose again after 1862 – due hospital function of the workhouses

It was the workhouse rather than outdoor relief that was extremely costly

“Irish Property pay for Irish poverty”(Gray, 2006)

Burke poses the question “if that nine million pounds
had been spent on in trying to implement the Irish Royal
Commission’s plan, could the worst hardships of the
famine have been averted? (1987: 80). Cost of the Poor Law This Act caused `a dramatic and
permanent change in poor law policy
in Ireland by sanctioning outdoor
It marked the `meagre beginning’ of
Irish income maintenance services
(Burke, 1987:130). 1) Significance of Poor Relief Extension Act provided for the appointment of Relieving Officers in every district to administer the scheme
the granting of `relief’ was at the discretion of the Relieving Officer
`relief’ given in `kind’ rather than cash - food/clothes/medicine
the provision of `relief’ not awarded indefinitely – reviewed regularly. Operation of Outdoor Relief Section 2 of Act contained a loophole – provision made for periods of ` unusual distress’ during which the Poor Law Commissioners could authorise the Board of Guardians to provide outdoor relief to the able-bodied.
In practice many Boards of Guardians were very slow to sanction `outdoor’ relief. Loophole in Act Amendment to Act – The `Quarter Acre Clause
(Gregory Clause)
A harsh amendment was made to this Act while it was going through the House of Commons. Tenants with more than a quarter acre of land were excluded from receiving relief. In order to qualify for relief they had to give up their land.
Many chose to starve rather than give up their land and go into the workhouse.
This amendment was repealed in 1863 The `Quarter Acre Clause’ The Temporary Relief Act - The Soup Kitchen Act (1847)

Provision of government sponsored soup kitchens to replace public work schemes
The soup kitchens provided food free of charge to `destitute’ persons
Wage earners could avail of the food but were obliged to pay for it
3 million received this relief.
(Burke, 1987)

Wound down late summer of 1847 (Gray, 2006) Temporary Relief Act Introduction of outdoor relief:

The Temporary Relief Act - The Soup Kitchen Act (1847)

The Irish Poor Relief Extension Act (1847) Policy change (1847) Impact of the famine
widespread hunger / deprivation
extreme pressure on workhouses overcrowding
evidence to suggest that some workhouses provided some outdoor relief in these extreme circumstances,
Poor Law Commission opposed this practice. Failure of potato crop (1846) Change of government (1846)

New government dismantled Peels’ reforms
wound up The Relief Commission
food depots closed
concentrated on public work schemes under the centralised control of The Board of Works Dismantling of Peel Reforms Led to widespread famine

1 million deaths, the workhouses filled quickly
Very small land holdings

Response by British administration – the `Peel’ Reforms
Repeal of the Corn Laws
permitted `free trade’ in foodstuffs – wheat / corn
Peel imported £100,00 worth of `Indian Corn / maize from the US
1845 - The Temporary Relief Commission - corn distribution, and information gathering
1846 - The Temporary Fever Act
Provision of temporary fever hospitals Failure of potato Crop (1845) Implementation of the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act, 1838
Responsibility given to Nicholls and four Assistant Commissioners

Centrally controlled, strict instructions on the operations of the workhouses (123 initially built)

Administrative Unions set up to establish the workhouses - local board of guardians in each.

No entitlement, no 'outdoor relief' Implementation of Irish Poor Law The development of specialist services
The sick
The blind, deaf and dumb
The mentally ill
The development of health services (curative and preventative)
The Dispensary system
The introduction of a domiciliary midwife service
Extension of hospital function of the workhouse
The development of public health policy – (control of infectious diseases)
WILL BE COVERED IN DETAIL NEXT LECTURE Expansion of Poor Law The Irish Poor Relief Extension Act (1847)

provided for the expansion of the workhouse system
breached the core principle of the Poor Law by granting relief outside the workhouse and without a work requirement – key policy development
provided for a system of `outdoor relief’ on a discretionary basis to three categories of people: The Poor Relief Extension Act Highly regulated
segregation of families
poor diet
shoddy clothes
work a requirement
men – breaking stones, grinding corn, working on the land
women – washing, cleaning mending, looking after children
governed by strict rules /regulations
punishment book for misbehaviour

seen by the poor as the injustice of the British rule in Ireland Conditions in the Workhouse Peel's Conservative Government While Peel responded quickly to the initial onset of the famine his Conservative Government held strong opinions on an appropriate response the locust will devour the land, and the concession once made can never be withdrawn (Sir James Graham, Home Secretary (quoted in Gray, 2006) Money not available

Poor law could not be used as famine relief – view of conservative government in Britain The Whig Government Poor Law should remain separate

Laissez-faire not interventionist

Radical nationalism to blame

Responsibility that of the Irish

Cannot create habitual dependency

No further Corn March 714,390 were employed by the Board of Works and still not adequate
By early 1847 there was a realisation that the Poor Law would have to come into force Ideology growing - increased moral responsibility of the wealthy and that labour practice reform needed (Gray, 2006)
And the opposite view: population control ‘destitute persons, namely those sick, aged, widowed (if 2+ dependent, legitimate children)

So the system still had a deterrence function built in (CONSIDINE AND DUKELOW, 2009). 2) Significance of the Extension Act Extension of the ‘Outdoor Relief’

This was dramatic change in policy as:

a) the Irish Commission of Inquiry (Whately) and the Nicholls’s Inquiry had both disagreed with such a provision (one of the few subjects the two reports agreed upon)

b) Government 1846 Select committee had declared such a measure as dangerous to the general interests of the community.’ (Burke, 1987) Questions for Tutorial
Is Social Policy: the result of some convincing research or commission of inquiry, or the beliefs or prejudices of powerful people?

Is a mere imitation of another country's policy or a pragmatic growth from the policies of the past?

Is it hemmed in by the dominant philosophies of the age or does it push towards a new ideology or a new social structure?

Is it planned with thought and consultation or rushed through parliament in the wake of some disaster? Peel Russell 14 15 16 16/17 17 17/18/19 19 19 20 21 21/22 22 23 24 24 24 25 25 25 26
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