From Indoor Relief to Outdoor Relief

The distinction between Indoor Relief and Outdoor Relief is always problematic.

We have witnessed a major shift in relief of poverty from indoor forms such as cloisters, poorhouses, workhouses, orphanages, mental hospitals, old peoples’ homes, and debtor prisons, to more privatised solutions:

After the passing of the Elizabethan Poor Law (1601)outdoor relief was that kind of poor relief where assistance was in the form of money, food, clothing or goods, given to alleviate poverty without the requirement that the recipient enter an institution.[1] In contrast, recipients of indoor relief were required to enter a workhouse or poorhouse. (

Wikipedia focuses on workhouses as the main form of indoor relief, even though there are many others. Outdoor relief replaced indoor relief almost entirely since the late 1960s. As a result, poverty and disadvantage have become concealed in a different way from Indoor relief.

Outdoor relief often conceals the pain and loneliness of the disadvantaged, just like Indoor relief but instead of in institutions which, with their large buildings are themselves very visible in a society, by driving the deprivation into each individual home, thereby making the disadvantaged invisible.

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