Presentation on theme: "Regional Perspectives Ireland. General comments The Irish poor law was modelled on the new English Poor Law but there were fundamental differences between."— Presentation transcript:
General comments The Irish poor law was modelled on the new English Poor Law but there were fundamental differences between the two, such as the absence of a law of settlement in Ireland. In terms of the relief system, the centrality of the workhouse determined the character of the system. Even after the introduction of outdoor relief during the Famine, indoor relief remained the primary form of relief.
Chart 1: Persons on relief per 1,000 population Unlike England and Wales, Ireland saw a rise in pauperism in the second half of the 19 th century. Peaks can be linked to periods of economic crisis with the exception of the years after 1900. The numbers receiving outdoor relief remained considerably lower than those receiving indoor relief throughout the period and fluctuated less markedly. In Ireland people looking for temporary assistance tended to enter the workhouse, whereas in England and Wales they were more likely to get outdoor relief. The decline from 1909 may be linked to introduction of old age pensions in 1908.
Chart 2: Mean numbers on relief Having dropped rapidly in the immediate post- Famine period, numbers on relief follow an upward trajectory from the late 1850s. Unlike England and Wales where outdoor relief declined after 1870 while indoor relief rose, in Ireland both forms of relief followed a broadly similar trajectory from the mid 1870s. Outdoor relief rose steadily from the 1850s to the early 1880s but after that it began a gradual decline. The fact that indoor and outdoor relief follow similar trends suggests that rising outdoor relief levels in the 1880s had less to do with the nationalisation of boards of guardians than has been assumed.
Chart 3: Outdoor relief as % of total relief Chart 4: Total expenditure Peaks in Chart 3 correspond to years of exceptional distress. The decline in the level of outdoor relief from 1900 suggests that the Local Government Act 1898 may have produced boards of guardians that were less keen on outdoor relief than their predecessors. The overall rise in expenditure (Chart 4) reflects the increase in numbers receiving relief. However, expenditure fluctuates less than numbers receiving relief.
Chart 5: Expenditure by province Regional patterns in expenditure remain fairly stable over the period. Low levels of expenditure in Connaught reflect lower population numbers and low land values resulting in correspondingly lower levels of poor rate than in other provinces. The population of Ulster was higher than that of other provinces and land values were variable suggesting that low expenditure levels reflected the relative parsimony of Ulster guardians.
Chart 6: Provincial levels of outdoor relief Patterns in the provision of outdoor relief again highlight Ulster difference. The significant increase in levels of outdoor relief in Connaught reflects the persistence of exceptional distress in the west and the consequent relaxing of restrictions on outdoor relief, and possibly also the belief amongst guardians that outdoor relief was cheaper than indoor.
Conclusion The workhouse remained central to the Irish poor law system throughout the period. Numbers receiving outdoor relief increased steadily in the 1860s and 1870s but then levelled off. The apparent rise in pauperism from the late 1850s is probably due to the increasing use of workhouses to accommodate the elderly and chronically ill. There are significant regional variations in levels of and expenditure on poor relief. While economic factors are important in explaining fluctuations in relief this is clearly not the whole story.
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