The Poor Law Amendment Act was more successful in some areas than it was in other areas, it is difficult to decide how much the act dealt with the problems of poverty as many other factors played their part in it. However, less than 0.2% of the poor actually entered the Workhouse.
The act helped many in the south who were agricultural labourers. Chadwick began where the problems were greatest, in the rural south. He made good progress in 1838 over 13,000 parishes had been joined to form 573 unions, By 1839 there were about 700 unions, and about 350 new workhouses were either completed or near completion. Many were saved from starvation and had access to schools and hospitals. People who never could be made to work before have become good labourers. Many were determined to find work. Others, who could, joined savings schemes to save ‘for a rainy day’. Many of the land owners raised the ages of the paupers, also new roads wee built, new paved streets and drainage schemes were installed for Poor Law Labour. In the parish if Hitchin in Hertfordshire, a well-managed parish where an increase was confidently predicted, the poor rates in 1835, before the formation of the union, amounted to £1716; after the Union they were reduced to £496.
However, it was unsuccessful in the north, where outdoor relief was given when mill workers were “laid off” during short periods of slow trade i.e. less long term unemployment and workhouse was not suitable for poor or employers. The act was to inflexible until 1834 when outdoor relief was re-introduced. The cost of Poor Relief fell dramatically in the south. It fell by about one third. In the north it was becoming more and more expensive. There was a lot of opposition from ratepayers, employers, shopkeepers, attacks and riots many wanted to work.
From The Times, April 1839
“It appears that the deluded populace of this district had been on the look out for him for three days, threatening his life if he durst commence his...