Status details for Poor Law Union

Status:Poor Law Union
Number of units in system: 642
Geographical Level: 8 (Higher-level District)
ADL Feature Type:countries, 3rd order divisions
Is a status within:Poor Law Union/Reg. District

Full Description:

The Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834 (4 &5 WM IV, c76) authorised Poor Law Commissioners to establish Poor Law Unions, created to sustain poor relief, almshouses and a workhouse within the Union area. Many parishes and groups of parishes were already included in incorporations or Gilbert Unions. These existing groupings were subsumed into the new units although some remained separate for varying periods of time. Chadwick was the main strength behind this Act, and by 1840 most parishes were included in Poor Law Unions, though the Gilbert Act unions and Incorporations were more slowly absorbed. The Poor Law Commissioners amended this Act (1843 (7&8 Vict.,c.101)) to allow for the dissolution of a Local Act Incorporation without the two thirds majority of the Guardians, but only when the population was below twenty thousand. This left forty-eight Old Unions (seventeen Gilbert Act Unions and thirty-one Incorporations) that were not absorbed into the Poor Law Amendment Act (1847), though some did voluntarily become part of the system in the 1860s. The Poor Law Amendment Act (1868 (31& 32.Vict.,c.122)) made it compulsory for all Old Unions and extra-parochial areas to become part of the 'great scheme'. A Royal Commission report (1909), the Local Government Sub-Commitee of the Ministry of Reconstruction report (1918) and the report of the Royal Commission on Local Government (1928) all emphasized the need for reform. This was achieved by the Local Government Act 1929 (19 &20 Geo V, c17), whereby all Poor Law Unions were abolished in 1930 and their functions were transferred to the Administrative County Councils. This led to the provision of relief for the uemployed (later called 'public assistance') by the National Assistance Board (1934). The National Assistance Act (1948) abolished the poor law altogether, giving the board the "duty to provide assistance for all persons whose resources are insufficient for their needs" (Jackson, 1966, p.45).