Gilberts Act 1782 was meant to help alleviate the strain on the poor relief system and provide opportunity for the poor.
The reality was a little different for whilst it kept people out of the workhouse it’s provision gave more help to the landowner who employed them.
Gilberts Act of 1782 allowed parishes to join together to form unions and provide relief. It stated that only the ‘impotent poor’ should occupy a workhouse, all other able bodied people should be encouraged to to work and take outdoor relief.
- Gilberts Act also gave more leverage to the land owning farmers, the main source of labour in parishes and payers of poor tax.
- It gave ‘the principle of the right to vote according to the amount of property occupied’.
- Thus, land owning farmers, who were employing many of the parish men, were able to exercise their control and take advantage of the poor relief system.
- They often paid low wages, allowing the poor relief to supplement the income of their workers.
The effect on the poor of such an act was enormous. The poor were literally pawns to be moved around by the government and the landowners.
You can see how this fits in the chronology of the development of Poor Relief starting with our Old Poor Relief 1338-1795 Summary.