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 support (‘public assistance’) to those who could not work. The principle was establishment of eligibility by parish of residence (leading Poor Law guardians to repatriate paupers elsewhere).
‘Outdoor’ and ‘indoor’ relief was available. Outdoor relief was designed to support people in their own homes 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.