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Poor Relief in Ireland, 1851-1914

Mel Cousins

This book examines the provision of poor relief in Ireland from the immediate aftermath of the Famine in the mid-nineteenth century to the onset of the Great War in 1914, by which time the Poor Law had been replaced by a range of other policy measures such as the old-age pension and national insurance. The study establishes an empirical basis for studying poor relief in this period, analysing over time the provision of indoor and outdoor relief and expenditure levels, and charts regional variations in the provision of poor relief. The author goes on to examine a number of issues that highlight political and social class struggles in relation to the provision of poor relief and also considers in fascinating detail the broader role of the Poor Law and the Boards of Guardians within local communities.


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Chapter 10The End of the Poor Law, 1907–1914 237


Chapter 10 The End of the Poor Law, 1907–1914 This chapter looks at the poor law in the period to the outbreak of war in 1914. Although the poor law was not abolished (at least in name) in south- ern Ireland until 1922 and in Northern Ireland until after the Second World War, this is the period in which decisions to introduce old age pensions and unemployment and national health insurance really marked the end of the poor law as the main system of relief, although the poor law and its successors continued (and continue) to play an important role in Irish social policy. Key poor relief trends The percentage of the population on poor relief fell over the period. The fall was greater in outdoor relief (36 per cent) than it was for indoor relief (20 per cent), and with outdoor relief the main fall came after 1911.1 This fall was largely as a result of the introduction of the old age pension with the dropping of the poor relief disqualification in January 1911 leading to the more rapid fall in relief levels. Ref lecting the fall in the numbers on relief the total expenditure also fell but by only 8 per cent in the period between 1909 and 1913. The fact that expenditure fell more slowly than the fall in the number of claimants was, at least in part, due the boards (i) having to spend more per head (due to rising prices and/or the fact that...

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