Wednesday 10 June 2015 - Who were the 'undeserving poor'?

Welcome to ‘The Problem of the Poor?’ blog page. This blog aims to keep you, the reader informed on what we, the wonderful volunteers have discovered in our unique heritage project and how we have been getting along.

This blog was written by Farhaan, one of our Heritage Volunteers.

The project is in full flow now, as sessions have shifted to a more researched based approach rather than the taught ones of previous weeks. Enthusiasm for the project amongst the humble volunteers remains high, and I for one am optimistic for the project, and what we will achieve in the coming weeks.

This week, we wasted no time in getting stuck in with the research. Looking into the works of the Charity Organisation Society (COS), a London based charity organisation, we deciphered the criticisms and responses of the organisation by looking into newspaper articles at that time. This was done for both the COS and the Nottingham based ‘Society for Organising Charity’.

What we found out was the organisation spent a lot of time publishing articles, mostly by Richard Simon, defending the organisation. Simon claimed to have stopped many ‘underserving’ poor from getting charity.

This led to finding out what was meant by ‘undeserving’ and ‘deserving’ poor. We found out that in the 10 months up to 31 December 1876  the London COS investigated no fewer than 655 applications for help. Just under a third of these, 204, weren’t helped, either because the applicant didn’t appear or because it was decided that they were ‘not suitable’, ‘not needing’ or ‘not deserving assistance’.

You can read more about the casework of the COS here and what was considered 'deserving' and 'undeserving' here.

Last updated: 31 July 2015