In what ways did the treatment of the poor stay the same during Elizabeth’s reign

Source E is an engraving, which shows how vagrants were being punished in public for begging in 1957. Most people considered it right that the vagrants were punished. They thought that they were getting what they deserved. Everyone thought beggars were sinful and wicked. They must have done something wrong to be poor. They certainly were not going to give their own hard-earned money to them. However, during Elizabeth’s reign, this perspective of the poor changed a great deal.

Most people no longer thought of the poor as wicked or sinful, they now understood the causes of poverty and knew that it wasn’t always the fault of the poor themselves that they were poor. The Elizabethan Poor Law started this in 1601. By looking at the Poor Law, the government could see that some changes were needed. They decided that each parish would look after its own poor and unemployed. A tax was to be collected within that parish, and the money raised from this tax would be used to help aid the poor. This money gave the poor gave them fuel, food and rent for accommodation.

But the poor were then no longer allowed to wander from one parish to another, they had to stay within their own parish. A major change was brought about by the Poor Law was that all of the poor people became separated into 3 groups. * The first group – The Impotent Poor. These were the people who were poor because of something that couldn’t be helped and they had no control over. This included children, crippled, old or the sick. These people might have been given a small amount of food and bits of money taken from the poor rate (the local poor tax).

The disabled were often looked after in their own homes, as they were not able to walk around by themselves. This was also paid for out of the poor rate. The poor children were apprenticed at the Parishes expense. The boys had to work for their apprenticed master until they became 20 years of age. All boys and girls were made to work until they turned twenty-one. This meant they would be leaving with a trade and would now find it easier to obtain a job.

* The second group – The able bodied poor. This group consisted of the people who were healthy enough to work and they ha a trade, but they were unable to obtain a job so were therefore poor. The government built workhouses, which they made available, and they gave the able, bodied poor jobs within these workhouses. This was a common and very effective source of employment with the poor. They made items such as rope and cloth. The poor rate paid these people until they could gain independence and find their own jobs. * The third group – This last category consisted of those who chose to be poor.

These people could get work, but they preferred begging and refused to get a job. They were called rouges and vagabonds. They scrounged and stole in order to survive. But then begging was eventually made illegal. Punishments were made for those people found begging. These punishments were short, painful and public, as there was no proper police force. Some people were given a license to beg and if you were found to be begging without one of these licenses, you would then in turn be flogged and sent back to their parish. Flogging was where the person was striped from the middle upwards and they were then whipped until they bled.

If these rouges still refused to look for employment, they would be sent to a house of correction or to one of the few gaols. If they carried on continually begging, they would be hung. The greatest changes in the attitude towards the poor in Elizabeth’s reign was towards the able bodied poor. People began to realise that it wasn’t always the person’s fault that they were poor. They could see that the people of this group were willing to work, but could not find employment. They could not help it if they were sick, disabled or could not find a job.

If they could do anything about it, they would. The people began to realise that the poor needed help, not punishments. The Poor Law brought about great changes towards the way poor people were treated. Everyone contributed to the poor tax which in turn gave the poor themselves financial help to help them get the essentials that they need and to help them gain a bit more independence. The poor in turn needed to respect the fact that everyone was trying to help them. They could not go to other parishes to gain more money; they had to stay within their own parish.

The disabled were given home help and the able bodied were given jobs until they could gain more independence to find their own jobs, and the children were given training for a trade which will help them to find a job as they get older. These few things put forward a large contribution towards the poor. Not only financially, but also socially aswell. They were no longer shoved to one side. People started to be friends with these people; they wanted to help them. They also stopped rouges and vagabonds with consistent punishments. The poor were changed in 1834, but it stayed in use constantly up until this date.

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