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1601 Poor Law

Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries removed the main source of charity for those who could not support themselves. In 1601, Elizabeth I's Government tried to fill the gap with the Poor Relief Act, which obliged each parish to collect taxes to support people who could not work. The system came under strain during the industrial revolution, as people moved from the countryside into town and different patterns of employment. In an attempt to dissuade individuals from claiming relief, the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 encouraged the building of workhouses, which were soon hated by many.

The 1905 Liberal Government attempted to improve welfare provision by introducing measures such as the first old age pensions. However, in an influential 1942 report, William Beveridge argued that the poor law should be replaced entirely with a welfare state which would care for everyone ‘from cradle to grave'. These changes, including the foundation of the NHS, were introduced by the 1945 Labour Government.