The Poor Law 1601 sought to consolidate all previous legislative provisions for the relief of ‘the poor’. The Poor Law made it compulsory for parishes to levy a ‘poor rate’ to fund financial (‘public assistance’) support for those who could not work. Assistance depended on the residential qualification of living locally.
The role of ‘overseer’ was established by the act. There were two in each parish to administer relief and collect poor rates from property owners. ‘Outdoor’ and ‘indoor’ relief was available. Outdoor relief was designed to support people in the community and took the form of financial support or non-monetary relief in the form of food and clothing. Indoor relief included taking ‘the poor’ to local almshouses, admitting ‘the mentally ill’ to hospitals and sending orphans to orphanages. The ‘idle poor’ were deposited in workhouses.