The Old Poor Law
The English Poor Law was legislation designed to alleviate the worst distresses of poverty. The 1601 Act for the Reliefe of the Poore, passed in the reign of Elizabeth I, is generally accepted as the historic foundation of such policy. It decreed that assistance to the poor would be administered at parish level, the cost being met through the poor-rate. The 1601 legislation represents the State’s formal acceptance of a responsibility to support those unable for one reason or another to support themselves. “Poor relief” became the term for assistance to such people, in the form of bread, money or other help.
The remoter origins of parochial poor relief extend back to the gradual …
Marshall, Tim. "Poor Law". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 March 2002
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=880, accessed 22 January 2017.]