Welfare before the state
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Welfare before the state book
Poor Law legislation can be dated back as far as 1388 when attempts were made both to fix wages and to limit the mobility of labour which may cause wages to rise. But the more systematic operation of a system of poor relief came in two Acts passed under Elizabeth I in 1598 and 1601. These Acts created three classifications of the poor together with appropriate treatment for each: the impotent poor (old, sick, lunatic) would be accommodated in poor houses or almshouses; the able-bodied poor would be set to work in the parish, and their children apprenticed to a trade; and finally the able-bodied poor who absconded would be punished in the ‘house of correction’. The Poor Law would be administered by each parish, which would appoint overseers of the poor who were empowered to raise a poor rate to pay for poor relief (Fraser, 2003: 33-36).