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The phrase ‘needs of the poor’ means the condition of the poverty and what is needed in order to survive. The poor themselves and the ratepayers would see the ‘needs’ different. The ratepayers would think basic survival was enough, whereas the poor would think more was needed – their families should stay together, shelter, food and clothing etc should be good and sufficient. What they were already used to before included; begging, low wages, child labour, no education etc.
The Southwell workhouse compared to others, in particular the Andover workhouse, was much better – fairer and less harsh. For examples, on Sundays the families were allowed to visit, and treats were given to the children on special occasions such as Christmas. The Andover workhouse was far less humane then Southwell, what was to become known as ‘The Andover Scandal’ was where the inmates were that badly mistreated and starved, they resorted to picking the meat of carcasses and sucking the marrow out of bones.
Southwell workhouse did and did not provide certain things for the poor. One thing it did provide was shelter. Allowing them food, a place to sleep/live and clothes, provided this. Although the families were split up, the food always the same – boring and plain (gruel, cabbage etc), no individuality, por washing facilities and humiliation, it was a much alternative to outside. Some groups of the poor were looked after differently and sometimes better – this was mainly the sick, the elderly and the children.
They were given certain treatment that the other groups would never receive. They would have had a better life inside the workhouse. However, a lot of people thought the workhouses discouraged laziness. Even though the jobs were meaningless and didn’t teach useful skills it made the inmates learn the routine of work and gave them a strict daily routine. Southwell workhouse also kept the poor off the streets, out of sight and it reduced the cost of the poor rate, which was all good for ratepayers and the upperclasses.
Like all workhouses though, the poor suffered with the stigma of being branded a pauper and everyone knowing it. It was very humiliating. One thing the workhouse did provide was education for the children. However, the education was very basic and didn’t really help the majority of children to learn the skills, which would help them to make the change back into society. The children outside the workhouse at this time did not usually have any education though.
The idea of a good workhouse is an empty workhouse was often seen to be more important than offering the chance to return back to normality. The workhouse was effective for the ratepayers and it was well organised. It sent out the right message to the poor and helped them realise finding work is better then laziness. However, the poor may have disagreed because of their treatment. It didn’t tackle the cause of poverty.