History Hans Högman
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Poor Relief in Sweden Formerly

Introduction

Poor relief (Swe: fattigvård) was the old-fashioned care provided by society for poor people who could not support themselves. The very poorest were housed in the parish poorhouse, (Swe: fattighus/fattigstuga), where children, the elderly, and disabled paupers were cared for, but also had to take care of each other. Rotegång”, or roaming, was a system of providing for the very poorest in peasant society. Those paupers who could not be placed in poorhouses were assigned to a “rotegång”. The pauper had to walk between the farms according to a set order. These paupers (rotehjon) were expected to help out and do right by each other. “Rotegång” literally means “walk the parish districts” (rote = district). A translation such as “transient parish paupers” might work in English. It was those of the destitute paupers who could not be placed in a poorhouse that were referred to the rotegång. The Homesteads in rural parishes were traditionally divided into districts called rote. A village rote (district) consisted usually of six homesteads. Each rote was responsible for one pauper and the paupers were shifted between the homesteads according to a schedule: typically the pauper stayed on each homestead for a few days up to a week at a time. They were expected to contribute with what they could in exchange for food, care, and housing.

The Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, the Church was responsible for the care of the poor, but individuals were also obliged to show concern for the poor. Helping the poor was a good deed, and good deeds showed that people had repented of their sins and wanted to mend their ways. Poverty was not a disgrace but a misfortune suffered, which, like many other things, was due to God's will. After death, the rich had more to answer for before God than the poor. Wealth gave more opportunities to do good, and those who did not take advantage of this opportunity had to atone for it after death. The poor had fewer opportunities to help others and thus less responsibility. In the Middle Ages, the combined old people's homes, poorhouses, and hospitals run by the Order of the Holy Spirit (Helige Andes Orden) were called “Helgeandshus” in Swedish, which was an important part of the care system of the time. The Helgeandshus (Helgeandshuset) in Stockholm was located on a small island called Helgeandsholmen. The building remained standing until around 1604 and gave the island its name "Helgeandsholmen". With the Reformation in the 16th century, this way of thinking changed and wealth was now seen as a sign of God's grace. Poverty, on the other hand, was seen as a personal failure, but it was several hundred years before poverty was seen as a social problem.

Hospitalen

The oldest institutions for the care of the poor, apart from those associated with monasteries, were hospitalen, which were a combination of institutions for the sick and the poor. Already in the Middle Ages, these were financed by donations, and after the Reformation, they continued to exist through the hospitalen. Larger towns and dioceses had these “hospital” institutions. The hospitalet in Gothenburg, which was inaugurated in 1627, was administered by the city administration and had no ecclesiastical foundation at the bottom. The Hospital Ordinance of 1624 is Sweden's first poor-law ordinance. Under the decree, all those unable to work were to be admitted to a “hospital”, except for children who were to be admitted to an orphanage. In the beginning, orphanages were only established in Stockholm. Allmänna Barnhuset (The General Orphanage) in Stockholm was an institution for children. Between 1633 and 1885, the orphanage, which until 1785 was called Stora Barnhuset (The Great Orphanage), was located on the crossroads Drottninggatan/Barnhusgatan in what is now the Barnhuset block. It moved in 1885 to Norrtullsgatan where it operated until 1922. Between 1880 and 1922, some 20,000 children were enrolled at the General Orphanage. If the mother was unable to pay for the maintenance of the enrolled child, she could leave it free of charge in exchange for living at the Children's Home for eight months and nursing her own and one other child. In addition, she would participate in the daily work of the Children's Home/Orphanage. Under the 1626 Chancery Regulations, the Royal Chancery, which in 1635 became the Central Office of the Chancellery (Kanslikollegium), was to oversee the hospitals, houses of correction, and orphanages. According to the Poor Law Ordinance of 1642, the hospitalen were to admit the poor and sick who had no relatives who could support them, as well as people with contagious diseases. The City of Skara had this type of hospital in the 17th century, as can be seen from the cathedral chapter's record of admissions. In 1686, the Ulricae Eleonorae Hospital Foundation built the so-called Queen's House (Drottninghuset) in Stockholm for destitute women. The city of Stockholm was the first to establish poorhouses. A poorhouse was built at Sabbatsberg in 1751 on behalf of Stockholm's Grand parish (Storkyrkoförsamlingen), and a medical spring institution was started there in 1764, and a medical spring hospital in 1807. Those admitted to the hospitalen were poor old people, especially elderly single women, the sick, and the disabled, as anyone who could physically work did so. The labor shortage was an unknown concept in the old agricultural society, where there was more heavy work to do than there were people to do it, as almost all work was done by manual labor. The connection between poor relief and health care was therefore quite natural before the 1760s. However, in the 1763 hospital regulations, the poor relief was separated from the hospitalen. In the latter part of the 18th century, the care of the sick was transferred to the hospitals (sjukhus), and only the mentally ill were admitted to the hospitalen (mental hospitals).

Poorhouses (Fattighus)

According to the Poor Law of 1642, each parish had to establish a poorhouse. This requirement was reiterated in the 1686 Church Act, but it was not until the 18th century that poorhouses began to be set up to some extent. The oldest poorhouses, were located next to the church so that parishioners could bring gifts (alms) to the poor while visiting the church. It was only in the 19th and 20th centuries that poorhouses (fattighus/fattigstuga), which from 1918 were called old people's homes (ålderdomshem), was built on the outskirts as if ashamed of the phenomenon. During the 18th and 19th centuries, many towns in Sweden established poorhouses and a directorate for the poor relief, but otherwise, the poor relief was looked after by the city administration. Some rural parishes also set up a directorate for the poor relief, but as a rule, the parish council (sockenstämman) handled most of the day-to-day poor relief (fattigvården). Poor care through poorhouses is also known as indoor relief. The image to the right shows the poorhouse in Turinge socken (parish), Nykvarn, at the beginning of the 1900s. Photo: Photographer unknown, about 1903 - 1910. Turinge-Taxinge local history society. ID: se_ab_tthf_0030. PDM. The poorhouse was built in 1780 after the owner of Vidbynäs manor, Major Carl Gustaf Elgenstierna, donated land and the owner of Nykvarns Works, Major Axel Tham, donated funds and materials. The poorhouse consisted of three rooms, an office, and a spacious attic and was built of brick. The poorhouse was then in use for the parish's poor until October 1921. The parishes (socken) were slow to establish poorhouses, as the peasants preferred a combination of a system of boarding and boarding-out (often in the form of poor relief auctions) of the paupers and “rotegång”, which meant that the paupers (rotehjon) walked or were taken between the farms within the parish district (rote). The rote paupers were thus dependent on board and lodging with the parish farmers, in turn for a few days in each farm. The paupers (fattighjon) were first and foremost those who were unfit for work (crippled), such as the physically or mentally disabled, the terminally ill, the elderly, and children without relatives to care for them. The motley crew of paupers also included the impoverished (without means) who received poor relief from the parish. The poorhouses were funded by fees. During the 19th century, most of the poor were found in the cities, and they were often so-called house-poor (husfattiga), i.e. they had a place to live in but could not support themselves. It was therefore more common to provide food, clothing, and a small amount of money; only in cases of extreme need were people placed in poorhouses. The image to the right shows the poorhouse in Gärdserum, Östergötland. Kalmar Läns Museum. ID: KLMF.Gärdserum00001. In 1829 there were 1,279 poorhouses, which were located in about half of the country's parishes. Small parishes felt they could not afford poor relief. In a survey of the poor relief in Sweden in 1829, there is a summary of the size of the poorhouses. Most poorhouses were between 20 and 60 square meters. In 1829, a total of 5,987 paupers lived in 1,084 poorhouses, which means an average of 5.5 paupers per poorhouse. According to statistics based on 335 parishes, women constituted a clear majority of the paupers, as much as 78%. If the husband died, the income ceased. Women's ability to support themselves and their children was severely limited at this time. Children, the elderly, the disabled, and the sick were all mixed in the poorhouses. As a rule, the poorhouses were built of lumber. Existing buildings were also sometimes converted into poorhouses. Usually, they had one or more rooms, one of which served as a kitchen. The paupers kept their few belongings in chests, usually under the bed. In 1869, i.e. at the end of the three great years of famine 1867 - 1869, a dismal record was broken in the care of the poor. At that time there were 217,373 registered paupers in the country. At that time, Sweden had a population of about 3.5 million, which means that paupers accounted for just over 6%. The years of famine between 1867 and 1869 had a major impact on the issue of poor relief. However, not in the sense that care became more generous. At the Parliament meeting of 1869, many argued that compulsory poor relief should be reduced to a minimum. The distress of the last decade had been too costly for the parishes. The Poor Law of 1871 also implied a tightening of the poor relief. In 1737, the parishes in Stockholm were given responsibility for running poorhouses. Stockholm's parishes then joined forces to organize a poor relief. In 1751, the city parishes in Stockholm jointly bought Sabbatsberg for this purpose. The activities of the Klara poorhouse were moved to Sabbatsberg the same year. The Nicolai poorhouse was completed in 1756 and could accommodate 300 paupers. The Kungsholm poorhouse at Hantverkargatan 8 was built in 1762. It was closed in 1872 when it was moved to Sabbatsberg. The image shows a room at the Sabbatsberg care and old people's home in Stockholm in 1896. Photographer unknown. ID: Stockholms stadsarkiv SE/SSA/0053/Sabbatsbergs vård- och ålderdomshem/F9:1. Stockholmskällan. In 1862, the City of Stockholm took over full responsibility for the poor from the parishes. The city's poor care, except that on Södermalm district, was to be transferred to Sabbatsberg. The 360 places were then increased by another 525. The various poorhouses on Sabbatsberg were named after the parishes they served, such as Adolf Fredrikhuset and Johanneshuset, located nearest to Vasaparken. With the 1918 Poor Relief Act, the poorhouses were renamed old people's homes (ålderdomshem). Paupers (Fattighjon) A pauper (fattighjon) was defined as a person who benefited from the parish's poor relief. In the Middle Ages, people who could not support themselves were referred to the poor relief provided by the peasants of the parish in the form of board and lodging, in turn for a few days on each farm (rotehjon). The paupers were first and foremost those who were unfit for work (crippled), such as the physically or mentally disabled, the terminally ill, the elderly, and children without relatives to care for them. The paupers also included the impoverished (without means) who received poor relief from the parish. Poor relief, in the form of “rotegång” for paupers (rotehjon), was prohibited by the 1918 Poor Law, but from the 16th century had gradually begun to be replaced by poorhouses and the housing of paupers (inhysehjon) - dependent tenants -, one year at a time, at the expense of the parish poor fund. The image shows poor children from Jeppetorp poorhouse, Grythyttan, 1913. Four barefoot boys in worn clothes. Unknown photographer. Nordiska museet. ID: NMA.0033630. Digitaltmuseum. PDM.

Workhouses

In the 18th century, so-called workhouses (Swe: arbetshus) were set up in major cities to provide useful training and employment for the unemployed. In the countryside, there were hardly any unemployed people, but a young man who was unwilling or unable to work in agriculture, forestry, or any other local activity could be sent to a workhouse in the county seat. Workhouses could be combined with a hospital; Karlskrona had a hospital and a work department 1794-1806. On 28 May 1813, a royal circular was issued to the county governors to try to encourage the establishment of workhouses, i.e. arbetshus. There were several workhouses in Stockholm. The Voluntary Workhouse was located on Södermalm in Katarina Parish from 1773 to 1844 and continued as the General Workhouse from 1844 to 1860 and as a workhouse institution until 1925. From 1926 it was called the Högalid Care Home. There was also a voluntary workhouse on the north side of Stockholm between 1797 and 1880. In Uppsala, there was a workhouse in the mid-19th century. Poor care through workhouses is also known as outdoor relief.

Charitable Institutions

Charitable institutions (Försörjningsinrättningar) were institutions for the care and housing of the poor. In Stockholm, there were several such institutions with different “guests”. The General Charitable Institution for Women in Stockholm (called Grubbens) existed between 1860 and 1926 and was transformed into St. Erik's Hospital in 1926. Gothenburg had a large charitable institution and workhouse from 1855. In 1888, the even larger welfare charitable institution called Sjuk och vårdhemmet Gibraltar was completed. In the 1930s it had 1,663 beds for the mentally ill, the physically ill, the tuberculosis patients. Charitable institutions were also established in rural areas at the end of the 19th century.

Work Homes (Arbetshem)

The 1918 Poor Law required the county councils (Landsting) and the cities not being part of a county council, i.e. the larger cities, to establish special work homes for persons over 18 years of age who were somewhat able to work and needed institutional care but were not suitable for old people's homes, charitable homes or nursing homes. Work homes (arbetshem) were also used for people with maintenance liability who had been ordered to work under the Poor Law, i.e. those who had been placed in workhouses during the 19th century (as opposed to forced labor institutions where convicts were placed).

Rotegång - Transient Parish Paupers

"Rotegång", or roaming (kringgång), was a system of providing for the very poorest in peasant society. Already in the Middle Ages, a form of rotation system was used for the non-able-bodied poor in the Swedish countryside, where there were no poorhouses and helgeandshus (combined old people's homes, poorhouses, and hospitals) as in the cities. The paupers who could not be placed in poorhouses received care in the form of “rotegång”. The pauper (called rotehjon - transient parish pauper) was then allowed to move between the farms according to a set order. Several farms - usually six - attached to a so-called “rote” district had a joint obligation to provide food and lodging, and to some extent care for the pauper. The pauper was expected to help out and do right. As proof of his entitlement, the pauper carried a so-called “poor hammer” made of wood. On the hammer was written the order of rotation and the length of stay on the farms. There were at least two practices for “rotegång”. One was based on the mantal-set value of each farm or homestead in which system the number of days the pauper stayed in each homestead depended on the property tax code. The pauper then stayed more days on a profitable farm than on a less wealthy farm. In the other system, the pauper stayed the same number of days on each farm. The image to the right shows “rotehjon” (pauper) Tåars-Johan, Sätuna parish’s last transient parish pauper (Falköping). Photo: Gustaf Holm circa 1890. Västergötlands museum. ID: 1M16-A145156:311. PDM. “Rotegång” for children was banned in 1847. Poor auctions became more common for children. “rotegång” as well as the poor auctions were finally banned in Sweden in 1918. The rotegång paupers (rotehjon) were the poorest of the poor since they, unlike the dependent tenants (inhyseshjon), were confined to rotegång which meant that they received the necessary food and lodging in one farm after another, with a fixed number of days on each farm. Many parishes were divided into rote districts, with one or a few villages per rote, which were jointly responsible for the paupers assigned to them by the parish council. It was considered bad luck to have a dying rotehjon in the home. Therefore, it was common for them to be passed around between households even while they were dying. This rotegång was also called dung (dynga) and the poor, who in this way moved from farm to farm, dung pauper (dyngenhjon).

Poor Hammer / Beggar’s Hammer

A poor hammer (fattigklubba), also known as a beggar's hammer, was a symbol made of wood to show that the bearer was poor and in need of a livelihood according to a fixed parish lap based on the rotegång system (see above). A pauper could be granted rotegång and become a so-called rotehjon (rote pauper), which meant that he had to go to the farm that was next in line in the rote district for food and lodging, which usually was the farm where the poor hammer was. Otherwise, he had to bring his poor hammer and a notebook in which the time and place were recorded. They had to stay for one to five days depending on the mantal-set value (tax code) of the farm. When the time was up, he had to go to the next farm in the rote district. Those who were able had to walk between farms, while frail paupers were sent with horse and carriage. The poor hammer usually had carved owner’s marks for the farms in the rote district that was obliged to participate in the maintenance of a rotehjon. The pauper had to walk between the farms according to a set order. So, on the hammer was also this order noted and how long a stay on each farm could last. The image shows a poor hammer (fattigklubba) from Hälsingland province, Sweden. Image: Wikipedia.

Dependent tenants (Inhyseshjon)

Inhyseshjon and all others who lived or were housed in someone else's home or on someone else's land without being in his service were categorized as dependent tenants or dependent lodgers. They were usually poor people, paupers, placed by the parish council with a family for a fee, because they were unable to work. There were elderly people, orphans, and disabled people who were housed at the parish's expense, thus escaping the rotehjon's rote migration (rotegång). They contributed as much labor as they were able and were placed in the family that demanded the lowest remuneration in a poor auction.

Poor Relief in the Past

Related Links

History of Swedish Hospitals The Conception of Socknen History of Swedish Prisons Crown Labor Corps (penal servitude)

Source References

Förvaltningshistorik 20 – Fattigvård och Socialtjänst, Ra Fattigvårdslagstiftningen, fattigvårdslagen 1918 Normen för fattigvård, En studie om 1871- och 1918 års fattigvårdsförordningar, kopplat till genus, klass och medborgarskap. Kandidatuppsats av Henrik Thörne, 2015. Det gamla Ytterlännäs av Sten Berglund, 1974. Kapitel 36, Några glimtar av äldre fattigvård. Wikipedia Top of Page

Poor Auctions

Poor care auction, poor auction, sale by auction, etc., was an old form of poor care in Sweden that involved auctioning off paupers to the lowest bidder, i.e. to the person who demanded the least compensation from the parish or municipal poor relief board for taking care of a pauper. Poor auctions are best known for the auctioning off of children, i.e. children's auctions, but the method was actually used for paupers of all ages, except for particularly old children. The poor were divided into two classes. The first-class of paupers included those who were unfit for work, disabled, such as the physically or mentally disabled, the terminally ill, the elderly, and children, who had no relatives able or willing to care for them. Second-class paupers included those who received temporary poor relief from the Poor Relief Board. According to the law, paupers were to be placed in poorhouses in the first place. In the second instance, the Poor Relief Board was obliged to pay for their board, lodging, and support. Some parishes could not afford to build a poorhouse, while others refused to pay for one. Rotegång and poor auctions were preferred as a cheaper alternative to building a poorhouse. This also meant that paupers could be used as labor. Every year a placard with the names of the first class of paupers was published in a notice in the parish church. On the last Sunday before Christmas, the poor auction was held in the parish courthouse after the sermon. The Poor Relief Board auctioned the pauper to the parishioners, who bid during the auction on the compensation they required from the Poor Relief Board for caring for the pauper for a year. The person who offered to take care of the pauper for the lowest compensation won the bid. The Poor Relief Board reimbursed the bid winner for food, lodging, clothing, and any medical care and funeral expenses. At the same time, the pauper was expected to work for the bidder to the best of his ability. This auction was then repeated at the end of the one-year period. There are many accounts of how the paupers, often children, were mistreated and abused and exploited as cheap labor.

Defenseless/Vagrants

Being unemployed was considered a crime and implied immediate punishment in the form of penal servitude. This statute was instituted in 1664 and was practiced until 1926 except for some revisions. Thus, it was a crime to be poor and drift about (vagrancy), i.e. to be unemployed. You were then considered defenseless (försvarslös) and could be sentenced to penal servitude (straffarbete) in a house of correction. The 1885 vagrancy law decriminalized vagrancy (lösdriveri), and vagrants could instead be sentenced to forced labor (tvångsarbete), which society now regarded as a treatment rather than a punishment. You were then defenseless and could be taken out for forced labor or active military service (krigstjänst). Under the 1885 Act, vagrancy meant "failure to make an honest living" and included those who were "roaming about the country". A vagrant was "a person who has no permanent abode, permanent employment, means of livelihood, and who moves from place to place, supporting himself by casual labor, begging and similar, tramp, vagabond, hobo". Under the 1885 Act, vagrants could be sentenced to forced labor. The Crown Labor Corps (Kronoarbetskåren) was a government hard labor institution that, among other things, took in able-bodied defenseless persons from prisons.

Poor Box

A poor box was a money box for alms to the poor and sick and was often set up at churches. The image to the right shows a poor box at Rättvik church, Dalarna. Image: Wikipedia. The following writing is on the board: Ps 41:2 Säll är then som låter sig wårda om then fattiga : ho- nom skal HERREN hjelpa i then onda tiden. Blessed is he who cares for the poor: the LORD will help him in the time of trouble. II Cor. 9:7. Hwar och en som han sielf wil; icke med olust, eller af twång. ty en galdan gif- ware älskar GUD. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Poor-Laws

According to older ordinances, parishes and towns were asked to give alms to the poor and to build poorhouses. These guidelines were drawn up by the government in 1624 in the so-called Hospital Ordinance (hospitalsförordningen) and were in force until 1763. In 1763, the first Poor Relief Ordinance was passed, which established the obligation of each parish to care for those of its citizens who were in need. In the latter part of the 18th century, the concept of domicile was also introduced, which meant that the poor could only be helped by the parish in which they were born. However, no rights were given to the poor to claim poor relief until 1847 by the ordinance issued that year. This ordinance laid down certain basic principles for the organization of poor relief. However, the parishes were allowed to organize the poor relief according to the conditions appropriate to the locality. According to the 1847 Poor Law Ordinance, a Poor Relief Board (fattigvårdsstyrelse) was to be established in each parish. The Ordinance laid down certain local obligations and prohibited begging throughout the country. The parish committee, established in 1844, could also function as a poor relief board. A parishioner was entitled to poor relief after three years' residence in the parish without receiving poor relief, and the parish council could no longer refuse people from moving to the parish, as it could under the 1788 ordinance, if it was feared that an old or less able-bodied person would be a burden on the poor relief system. On the other hand, the parish could refuse poor relief if the person did not have the right of domicile (hemortsrätt). Previously, this right had been obtained through domicile registration. Long-running disputes over domicile registration (mantalsskrivning/kyrkoskrivning) were common in the early 19th century. Anyone who was registered as a domicile of the parish was then entitled to poor relief. Such disputes, as well as disputes between the parishes in poverty matters, went to the County Governor (Landshövdingen) for decision - a precursor to the later County Court (länsrätten) - and could also go up to the Kammarkollegium (The national judicial board for public lands and funds) in Stockholm. In 1871, a new law was passed concerning the poor relief, based on the 1847 ordinance, with the difference that the 1871 law significantly restricted the right of the needy to assistance. The 1871 Act remained in force until 1918 when a more up-to-date law was passed on the subject. In 1853, a new ordinance was introduced that was relatively generous and allowed individuals to appeal to the County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen). In 1863, when the municipalities were formed and replaced the former secular parishes (socken), the municipal committee (kommunalnämnden) was responsible for the care of the poor, unless a special poor relief board (fattigvårdsstyrelse ) was appointed, and this did not become compulsory until 1919. In small rural municipalities (landskommuner), poor relief was the main task of the municipal committee, and old records show that it was not just a matter of passively alleviating the worst of the hardships, but that more constructive help was also given. The 1871 Poor Law tightened up the provisions of 1847 and the subsequent ordinance of 13 July 1853, among other things by making it impossible to appeal against the decision of the municipal committee on poor care. The right of appeal to the County Administrative Board was reintroduced by the 1918 Poor Law Ordinance. The 1918 Poor Law reformed the system, and each municipal administration became a poor care community. The Act was adopted by the Swedish Parliament on 14 June 1918 and remained in force until 1955. It humanized the poor care system in Sweden at the time and represented a transition between the old-style poor care system and the more modern social welfare system. Among other things, poor auctions and “rotegång” were banned, and the poorhouses became old people's homes instead (ålderdomshem), and the right of appeal was reintroduced as mentioned above. The image shows Tystberga old people's home and poorhouse in 1929. Image: Södermanland Museum. Poor relief, in the form of “rotegång” for paupers, was thus banned in 1918 after having been banned for children in 1847. In the 1918 Poor Law, the concept of the poor and his position in society differs considerably from that of the 1871 law. The introduction to the 1871 Act states that the poor relief is "a gift of mercy, which the poor cannot insist on", i.e. the poor should be satisfied with the help he or she received. The 1918 law goes in the opposite direction, now emphasizing that the care of the poor is "the obligation of society towards the poor". The view of the poor in the 1871 Act is rather harsh and indifferent, whereas the 1918 Act has a softer view of the poor for the time and expresses the idea that "even the poor have certain rights, which he can claim". In 1937, each municipality was obliged to keep a register of the relief activities in the municipality, i.e. the municipality was obliged to document its poor relief activities. In rural municipalities with a municipal office, the latter could keep the register and the responsibility then lay with the municipal committee, otherwise, it was the poor relief board that had the responsibility, but from 1957 it became the social welfare board (socialnämnden). Child welfare committees (barnavårdsnämnd) became compulsory in 1926. It was then possible to appoint a three-member committee, which was a combination of a child welfare board and a poor relief board.

Government Supervision

The care of the poor was the parish's business, from the beginning based on the old parish loyalty, when, of course, one took care of the "children of the parish" who had fallen on hard times. However, parish loyalty did not last in the face of the developments of the 19th century. The labor force became more mobile and the more people who lived from wage labor outside agriculture, the greater the risk of poverty caused by unemployment and not just by illness or old age as had been the case in the past. The government's intervention in the care of the poor was at first restricted to the laws and regulations on the care of the poor. The Government Inspector for Care of the Poor (fattigvårdsinspektör), attached to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), which had been established in 1912, was added by the 1918 Poor Law. The title was changed by the 1924 Child Welfare Act to Government Inspector of Poor Care and Child Welfare, who directed the work of the poor care and child welfare consultants. Under the 1918 Poor Law, the County Administrative Board (Länstyrelsen) was to supervise that municipalities provided poor services in accordance with the law. In this task, the County Administrative Board was to be assisted by a poor care consultant (fattigvårdskonsulent). No special training was required for the old parish poor care. It is only when government supervision is introduced that training becomes relevant. The first social work training was established in Stockholm in 1921 and developed into the Social Pedagogical Institute (Socialpedagogiska Institutet). Training in Gothenburg was added in 1944, in Lund in 1947, and in Umeå in 1962. These Social Institutes were run by municipalities. In 1963, the Social Institutes were nationalized and renamed as Social Colleges. The Social Colleges were established in Örebro in 1976 and Östersund in 1971.

Summary of the 1918 Poor-Law

Menu at Sabbatsberg Poorhouse 1866

Source: Menu at Sabbatsberg Poorhouse in Stockholm in 1866. Stockholms stadsarkiv SE/SSA/0053/ Sabbatsbergs vård- och ålderdomshem, ämnesordnade handlingar F10, volym 1. Stockholmskällan.
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For the midday meal each day there is also a soup dish, well prepared from healthy foods. Sunday- Cabbage soap Monday – Rice gruel Tuesday – Meat broth Wednesday - Rice gruel Thursday – Yellow pea soap Friday - Rice gruel Saturday – Oatmeal gruel
History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2021-09-22

Poor Relief in Sweden Formerly

Introduction

Poor relief (Swe: fattigvård) was the old-fashioned care provided by society for poor people who could not support themselves. The very poorest were housed in the parish poorhouse, (Swe: fattighus/fattigstuga), where children, the elderly, and disabled paupers were cared for, but also had to take care of each other. Rotegång”, or roaming, was a system of providing for the very poorest in peasant society. Those paupers who could not be placed in poorhouses were assigned to a “rotegång”. The pauper had to walk between the farms according to a set order. These paupers (rotehjon) were expected to help out and do right by each other. “Rotegång” literally means “walk the parish districts” (rote = district). A translation such as “transient parish paupers might work in English. It was those of the destitute paupers who could not be placed in a poorhouse that were referred to the rotegång. The Homesteads in rural parishes were traditionally divided into districts called rote. A village rote (district) consisted usually of six homesteads. Each rote was responsible for one pauper and the paupers were shifted between the homesteads according to a schedule: typically the pauper stayed on each homestead for a few days up to a week at a time. They were expected to contribute with what they could in exchange for food, care, and housing.

The Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, the Church was responsible for the care of the poor, but individuals were also obliged to show concern for the poor. Helping the poor was a good deed, and good deeds showed that people had repented of their sins and wanted to mend their ways. Poverty was not a disgrace but a misfortune suffered, which, like many other things, was due to God's will. After death, the rich had more to answer for before God than the poor. Wealth gave more opportunities to do good, and those who did not take advantage of this opportunity had to atone for it after death. The poor had fewer opportunities to help others and thus less responsibility. In the Middle Ages, the combined old people's homes, poorhouses, and hospitals run by the Order of the Holy Spirit (Helige Andes Orden) were called Helgeandshus” in Swedish, which was an important part of the care system of the time. The Helgeandshus (Helgeandshuset) in Stockholm was located on a small island called Helgeandsholmen. The building remained standing until around 1604 and gave the island its name "Helgeandsholmen". With the Reformation in the 16th century, this way of thinking changed and wealth was now seen as a sign of God's grace. Poverty, on the other hand, was seen as a personal failure, but it was several hundred years before poverty was seen as a social problem.

Hospitalen

The oldest institutions for the care of the poor, apart from those associated with monasteries, were hospitalen, which were a combination of institutions for the sick and the poor. Already in the Middle Ages, these were financed by donations, and after the Reformation, they continued to exist through the hospitalen. Larger towns and dioceses had these “hospital institutions. The hospitalet in Gothenburg, which was inaugurated in 1627, was administered by the city administration and had no ecclesiastical foundation at the bottom. The Hospital Ordinance of 1624 is Sweden's first poor-law ordinance. Under the decree, all those unable to work were to be admitted to a “hospital”, except for children who were to be admitted to an orphanage. In the beginning, orphanages were only established in Stockholm. Allmänna Barnhuset (The General Orphanage) in Stockholm was an institution for children. Between 1633 and 1885, the orphanage, which until 1785 was called Stora Barnhuset (The Great Orphanage), was located on the crossroads Drottninggatan/Barnhusgatan in what is now the Barnhuset block. It moved in 1885 to Norrtullsgatan where it operated until 1922. Between 1880 and 1922, some 20,000 children were enrolled at the General Orphanage. If the mother was unable to pay for the maintenance of the enrolled child, she could leave it free of charge in exchange for living at the Children's Home for eight months and nursing her own and one other child. In addition, she would participate in the daily work of the Children's Home/Orphanage. Under the 1626 Chancery Regulations, the Royal Chancery, which in 1635 became the Central Office of the Chancellery (Kanslikollegium), was to oversee the hospitals, houses of correction, and orphanages. According to the Poor Law Ordinance of 1642, the hospitalen were to admit the poor and sick who had no relatives who could support them, as well as people with contagious diseases. The City of Skara had this type of hospital in the 17th century, as can be seen from the cathedral chapter's record of admissions. In 1686, the Ulricae Eleonorae Hospital Foundation built the so-called Queen's House (Drottninghuset) in Stockholm for destitute women. The city of Stockholm was the first to establish poorhouses. A poorhouse was built at Sabbatsberg in 1751 on behalf of Stockholm's Grand parish (Storkyrkoförsamlingen), and a medical spring institution was started there in 1764, and a medical spring hospital in 1807. Those admitted to the hospitalen were poor old people, especially elderly single women, the sick, and the disabled, as anyone who could physically work did so. The labor shortage was an unknown concept in the old agricultural society, where there was more heavy work to do than there were people to do it, as almost all work was done by manual labor. The connection between poor relief and health care was therefore quite natural before the 1760s. However, in the 1763 hospital regulations, the poor relief was separated from the hospitalen. In the latter part of the 18th century, the care of the sick was transferred to the hospitals (sjukhus), and only the mentally ill were admitted to the hospitalen (mental hospitals).

Poorhouses (Fattighus)

According to the Poor Law of 1642, each parish had to establish a poorhouse. This requirement was reiterated in the 1686 Church Act, but it was not until the 18th century that poorhouses began to be set up to some extent. The oldest poorhouses, were located next to the church so that parishioners could bring gifts (alms) to the poor while visiting the church. It was only in the 19th and 20th centuries that poorhouses (fattighus/fattigstuga), which from 1918 were called old people's homes (ålderdomshem), was built on the outskirts as if ashamed of the phenomenon. During the 18th and 19th centuries, many towns in Sweden established poorhouses and a directorate for the poor relief, but otherwise, the poor relief was looked after by the city administration. Some rural parishes also set up a directorate for the poor relief, but as a rule, the parish council (sockenstämman) handled most of the day-to-day poor relief (fattigvården). Poor care through poorhouses is also known as indoor relief. The image to the right shows the poorhouse in Turinge socken (parish), Nykvarn, at the beginning of the 1900s. Photo: Photographer unknown, about 1903 - 1910. Turinge-Taxinge local history society. ID: se_ab_tthf_0030. PDM. The poorhouse was built in 1780 after the owner of Vidbynäs manor, Major Carl Gustaf Elgenstierna, donated land and the owner of Nykvarns Works, Major Axel Tham, donated funds and materials. The poorhouse consisted of three rooms, an office, and a spacious attic and was built of brick. The poorhouse was then in use for the parish's poor until October 1921. The parishes (socken) were slow to establish poorhouses, as the peasants preferred a combination of a system of boarding and boarding- out (often in the form of poor relief auctions) of the paupers and “rotegång”, which meant that the paupers (rotehjon) walked or were taken between the farms within the parish district (rote). The rote paupers were thus dependent on board and lodging with the parish farmers, in turn for a few days in each farm. The paupers (fattighjon) were first and foremost those who were unfit for work (crippled), such as the physically or mentally disabled, the terminally ill, the elderly, and children without relatives to care for them. The motley crew of paupers also included the impoverished (without means) who received poor relief from the parish. The poorhouses were funded by fees. During the 19th century, most of the poor were found in the cities, and they were often so-called house-poor (husfattiga), i.e. they had a place to live in but could not support themselves. It was therefore more common to provide food, clothing, and a small amount of money; only in cases of extreme need were people placed in poorhouses. The image to the right shows the poorhouse in Gärdserum, Östergötland. Kalmar Läns Museum. ID: KLMF.Gärdserum00001. In 1829 there were 1,279 poorhouses, which were located in about half of the country's parishes. Small parishes felt they could not afford poor relief. In a survey of the poor relief in Sweden in 1829, there is a summary of the size of the poorhouses. Most poorhouses were between 20 and 60 square meters. In 1829, a total of 5,987 paupers lived in 1,084 poorhouses, which means an average of 5.5 paupers per poorhouse. According to statistics based on 335 parishes, women constituted a clear majority of the paupers, as much as 78%. If the husband died, the income ceased. Women's ability to support themselves and their children was severely limited at this time. Children, the elderly, the disabled, and the sick were all mixed in the poorhouses. As a rule, the poorhouses were built of lumber. Existing buildings were also sometimes converted into poorhouses. Usually, they had one or more rooms, one of which served as a kitchen. The paupers kept their few belongings in chests, usually under the bed. In 1869, i.e. at the end of the three great years of famine 1867 - 1869, a dismal record was broken in the care of the poor. At that time there were 217,373 registered paupers in the country. At that time, Sweden had a population of about 3.5 million, which means that paupers accounted for just over 6%. The years of famine between 1867 and 1869 had a major impact on the issue of poor relief. However, not in the sense that care became more generous. At the Parliament meeting of 1869, many argued that compulsory poor relief should be reduced to a minimum. The distress of the last decade had been too costly for the parishes. The Poor Law of 1871 also implied a tightening of the poor relief. In 1737, the parishes in Stockholm were given responsibility for running poorhouses. Stockholm's parishes then joined forces to organize a poor relief. In 1751, the city parishes in Stockholm jointly bought Sabbatsberg for this purpose. The activities of the Klara poorhouse were moved to Sabbatsberg the same year. The Nicolai poorhouse was completed in 1756 and could accommodate 300 paupers. The Kungsholm poorhouse at Hantverkargatan 8 was built in 1762. It was closed in 1872 when it was moved to Sabbatsberg. The image shows a room at the Sabbatsberg care and old people's home in Stockholm in 1896. Photographer unknown. ID: Stockholms stadsarkiv SE/SSA/0053/Sabbatsbergs vård- och ålderdomshem/F9:1. Stockholmskällan. In 1862, the City of Stockholm took over full responsibility for the poor from the parishes. The city's poor care, except that on Södermalm district, was to be transferred to Sabbatsberg. The 360 places were then increased by another 525. The various poorhouses on Sabbatsberg were named after the parishes they served, such as Adolf Fredrikhuset and Johanneshuset, located nearest to Vasaparken. With the 1918 Poor Relief Act, the poorhouses were renamed old people's homes (ålderdomshem). Paupers (Fattighjon) A pauper (fattighjon) was defined as a person who benefited from the parish's poor relief. In the Middle Ages, people who could not support themselves were referred to the poor relief provided by the peasants of the parish in the form of board and lodging, in turn for a few days on each farm (rotehjon). The paupers were first and foremost those who were unfit for work (crippled), such as the physically or mentally disabled, the terminally ill, the elderly, and children without relatives to care for them. The paupers also included the impoverished (without means) who received poor relief from the parish. Poor relief, in the form of “rotegång” for paupers (rotehjon), was prohibited by the 1918 Poor Law, but from the 16th century had gradually begun to be replaced by poorhouses and the housing of paupers (inhysehjon) - dependent tenants -, one year at a time, at the expense of the parish poor fund. The image shows poor children from Jeppetorp poorhouse, Grythyttan, 1913. Four barefoot boys in worn clothes. Unknown photographer. Nordiska museet. ID: NMA.0033630. Digitaltmuseum. PDM.

Workhouses

In the 18th century, so-called workhouses (Swe: arbetshus) were set up in major cities to provide useful training and employment for the unemployed. In the countryside, there were hardly any unemployed people, but a young man who was unwilling or unable to work in agriculture, forestry, or any other local activity could be sent to a workhouse in the county seat. Workhouses could be combined with a hospital; Karlskrona had a hospital and a work department 1794-1806. On 28 May 1813, a royal circular was issued to the county governors to try to encourage the establishment of workhouses, i.e. arbetshus. There were several workhouses in Stockholm. The Voluntary Workhouse was located on Södermalm in Katarina Parish from 1773 to 1844 and continued as the General Workhouse from 1844 to 1860 and as a workhouse institution until 1925. From 1926 it was called the Högalid Care Home. There was also a voluntary workhouse on the north side of Stockholm between 1797 and 1880. In Uppsala, there was a workhouse in the mid-19th century. Poor care through workhouses is also known as outdoor relief.

Charitable Institutions

Charitable institutions (Försörjningsinrättningar) were institutions for the care and housing of the poor. In Stockholm, there were several such institutions with different “guests”. The General Charitable Institution for Women in Stockholm (called Grubbens) existed between 1860 and 1926 and was transformed into St. Erik's Hospital in 1926. Gothenburg had a large charitable institution and workhouse from 1855. In 1888, the even larger welfare charitable institution called Sjuk och vårdhemmet Gibraltar was completed. In the 1930s it had 1,663 beds for the mentally ill, the physically ill, the tuberculosis patients. Charitable institutions were also established in rural areas at the end of the 19th century.

Work Homes (Arbetshem)

The 1918 Poor Law required the county councils (Landsting) and the cities not being part of a county council, i.e. the larger cities, to establish special work homes for persons over 18 years of age who were somewhat able to work and needed institutional care but were not suitable for old people's homes, charitable homes or nursing homes. Work homes (arbetshem) were also used for people with maintenance liability who had been ordered to work under the Poor Law, i.e. those who had been placed in workhouses during the 19th century (as opposed to forced labor institutions where convicts were placed).

Rotegång - Transient Parish Paupers

"Rotegång", or roaming (kringgång), was a system of providing for the very poorest in peasant society. Already in the Middle Ages, a form of rotation system was used for the non-able-bodied poor in the Swedish countryside, where there were no poorhouses and helgeandshus (combined old people's homes, poorhouses, and hospitals) as in the cities. The paupers who could not be placed in poorhouses received care in the form of “rotegång”. The pauper (called rotehjon - transient parish pauper) was then allowed to move between the farms according to a set order. Several farms - usually six - attached to a so-called “rote” district had a joint obligation to provide food and lodging, and to some extent care for the pauper. The pauper was expected to help out and do right. As proof of his entitlement, the pauper carried a so- called “poor hammer” made of wood. On the hammer was written the order of rotation and the length of stay on the farms. There were at least two practices for “rotegång”. One was based on the mantal-set value of each farm or homestead in which system the number of days the pauper stayed in each homestead depended on the property tax code. The pauper then stayed more days on a profitable farm than on a less wealthy farm. In the other system, the pauper stayed the same number of days on each farm. The image to the right shows “rotehjon” (pauper) Tåars- Johan, Sätuna parish’s last transient parish pauper (Falköping). Photo: Gustaf Holm circa 1890. Västergötlands museum. ID: 1M16-A145156:311. PDM. “Rotegång” for children was banned in 1847. Poor auctions became more common for children. “rotegång” as well as the poor auctions were finally banned in Sweden in 1918. The rotegång paupers (rotehjon) were the poorest of the poor since they, unlike the dependent tenants (inhyseshjon), were confined to rotegång which meant that they received the necessary food and lodging in one farm after another, with a fixed number of days on each farm. Many parishes were divided into rote districts, with one or a few villages per rote, which were jointly responsible for the paupers assigned to them by the parish council. It was considered bad luck to have a dying rotehjon in the home. Therefore, it was common for them to be passed around between households even while they were dying. This rotegång was also called dung (dynga) and the poor, who in this way moved from farm to farm, dung pauper (dyngenhjon).

Poor Hammer / Beggar’s Hammer

A poor hammer (fattigklubba), also known as a beggar's hammer, was a symbol made of wood to show that the bearer was poor and in need of a livelihood according to a fixed parish lap based on the rotegång system (see above). A pauper could be granted rotegång and become a so-called rotehjon (rote pauper), which meant that he had to go to the farm that was next in line in the rote district for food and lodging, which usually was the farm where the poor hammer was. Otherwise, he had to bring his poor hammer and a notebook in which the time and place were recorded. They had to stay for one to five days depending on the mantal-set value (tax code) of the farm. When the time was up, he had to go to the next farm in the rote district. Those who were able had to walk between farms, while frail paupers were sent with horse and carriage. The poor hammer usually had carved owner’s marks for the farms in the rote district that was obliged to participate in the maintenance of a rotehjon. The pauper had to walk between the farms according to a set order. So, on the hammer was also this order noted and how long a stay on each farm could last. The image shows a poor hammer (fattigklubba) from Hälsingland province, Sweden. Image: Wikipedia.

Dependent tenants (Inhyseshjon)

Inhyseshjon and all others who lived or were housed in someone else's home or on someone else's land without being in his service were categorized as dependent tenants or dependent lodgers. They were usually poor people, paupers, placed by the parish council with a family for a fee, because they were unable to work. There were elderly people, orphans, and disabled people who were housed at the parish's expense, thus escaping the rotehjon's rote migration (rotegång). They contributed as much labor as they were able and were placed in the family that demanded the lowest remuneration in a poor auction.

Poor Relief in the Past

Poor Auctions

Poor care auction, poor auction, sale by auction, etc., was an old form of poor care in Sweden that involved auctioning off paupers to the lowest bidder, i.e. to the person who demanded the least compensation from the parish or municipal poor relief board for taking care of a pauper. Poor auctions are best known for the auctioning off of children, i.e. children's auctions, but the method was actually used for paupers of all ages, except for particularly old children. The poor were divided into two classes. The first- class of paupers included those who were unfit for work, disabled, such as the physically or mentally disabled, the terminally ill, the elderly, and children, who had no relatives able or willing to care for them. Second-class paupers included those who received temporary poor relief from the Poor Relief Board. According to the law, paupers were to be placed in poorhouses in the first place. In the second instance, the Poor Relief Board was obliged to pay for their board, lodging, and support. Some parishes could not afford to build a poorhouse, while others refused to pay for one. Rotegång and poor auctions were preferred as a cheaper alternative to building a poorhouse. This also meant that paupers could be used as labor. Every year a placard with the names of the first class of paupers was published in a notice in the parish church. On the last Sunday before Christmas, the poor auction was held in the parish courthouse after the sermon. The Poor Relief Board auctioned the pauper to the parishioners, who bid during the auction on the compensation they required from the Poor Relief Board for caring for the pauper for a year. The person who offered to take care of the pauper for the lowest compensation won the bid. The Poor Relief Board reimbursed the bid winner for food, lodging, clothing, and any medical care and funeral expenses. At the same time, the pauper was expected to work for the bidder to the best of his ability. This auction was then repeated at the end of the one-year period. There are many accounts of how the paupers, often children, were mistreated and abused and exploited as cheap labor.

Defenseless/Vagrants

Being unemployed was considered a crime and implied immediate punishment in the form of penal servitude. This statute was instituted in 1664 and was practiced until 1926 except for some revisions. Thus, it was a crime to be poor and drift about (vagrancy), i.e. to be unemployed. You were then considered defenseless (försvarslös) and could be sentenced to penal servitude (straffarbete) in a house of correction. The 1885 vagrancy law decriminalized vagrancy (lösdriveri), and vagrants could instead be sentenced to forced labor (tvångsarbete), which society now regarded as a treatment rather than a punishment. You were then defenseless and could be taken out for forced labor or active military service (krigstjänst). Under the 1885 Act, vagrancy meant "failure to make an honest living" and included those who were "roaming about the country". A vagrant was "a person who has no permanent abode, permanent employment, means of livelihood, and who moves from place to place, supporting himself by casual labor, begging and similar, tramp, vagabond, hobo". Under the 1885 Act, vagrants could be sentenced to forced labor. The Crown Labor Corps (Kronoarbetskåren) was a government hard labor institution that, among other things, took in able-bodied defenseless persons from prisons.

Poor Box

A poor box was a money box for alms to the poor and sick and was often set up at churches. The image to the right shows a poor box at Rättvik church, Dalarna. Image: Wikipedia. The following writing is on the board: Ps 41:2 Säll är then som låter sig wårda om then fattiga : ho- nom skal HERREN hjelpa i then onda tiden. Blessed is he who cares for the poor: the LORD will help him in the time of trouble. II Cor. 9:7. Hwar och en som han sielf wil; icke med olust, eller af twång. ty en galdan gif- ware älskar GUD. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Poor-Laws

According to older ordinances, parishes and towns were asked to give alms to the poor and to build poorhouses. These guidelines were drawn up by the government in 1624 in the so-called Hospital Ordinance (hospitalsförordningen) and were in force until 1763. In 1763, the first Poor Relief Ordinance was passed, which established the obligation of each parish to care for those of its citizens who were in need. In the latter part of the 18th century, the concept of domicile was also introduced, which meant that the poor could only be helped by the parish in which they were born. However, no rights were given to the poor to claim poor relief until 1847 by the ordinance issued that year. This ordinance laid down certain basic principles for the organization of poor relief. However, the parishes were allowed to organize the poor relief according to the conditions appropriate to the locality. According to the 1847 Poor Law Ordinance, a Poor Relief Board (fattigvårdsstyrelse) was to be established in each parish. The Ordinance laid down certain local obligations and prohibited begging throughout the country. The parish committee, established in 1844, could also function as a poor relief board. A parishioner was entitled to poor relief after three years' residence in the parish without receiving poor relief, and the parish council could no longer refuse people from moving to the parish, as it could under the 1788 ordinance, if it was feared that an old or less able-bodied person would be a burden on the poor relief system. On the other hand, the parish could refuse poor relief if the person did not have the right of domicile (hemortsrätt). Previously, this right had been obtained through domicile registration. Long-running disputes over domicile registration (mantalsskrivning/kyrkoskrivning) were common in the early 19th century. Anyone who was registered as a domicile of the parish was then entitled to poor relief. Such disputes, as well as disputes between the parishes in poverty matters, went to the County Governor (Landshövdingen) for decision - a precursor to the later County Court (länsrätten) - and could also go up to the Kammarkollegium (The national judicial board for public lands and funds) in Stockholm. In 1871, a new law was passed concerning the poor relief, based on the 1847 ordinance, with the difference that the 1871 law significantly restricted the right of the needy to assistance. The 1871 Act remained in force until 1918 when a more up-to-date law was passed on the subject. In 1853, a new ordinance was introduced that was relatively generous and allowed individuals to appeal to the County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen). In 1863, when the municipalities were formed and replaced the former secular parishes (socken), the municipal committee (kommunalnämnden) was responsible for the care of the poor, unless a special poor relief board (fattigvårdsstyrelse ) was appointed, and this did not become compulsory until 1919. In small rural municipalities (landskommuner), poor relief was the main task of the municipal committee, and old records show that it was not just a matter of passively alleviating the worst of the hardships, but that more constructive help was also given. The 1871 Poor Law tightened up the provisions of 1847 and the subsequent ordinance of 13 July 1853, among other things by making it impossible to appeal against the decision of the municipal committee on poor care. The right of appeal to the County Administrative Board was reintroduced by the 1918 Poor Law Ordinance. The 1918 Poor Law reformed the system, and each municipal administration became a poor care community. The Act was adopted by the Swedish Parliament on 14 June 1918 and remained in force until 1955. It humanized the poor care system in Sweden at the time and represented a transition between the old-style poor care system and the more modern social welfare system. Among other things, poor auctions and “rotegång were banned, and the poorhouses became old people's homes instead (ålderdomshem), and the right of appeal was reintroduced as mentioned above. The image shows Tystberga old people's home and poorhouse in 1929. Image: Södermanland Museum. Poor relief, in the form of “rotegång” for paupers, was thus banned in 1918 after having been banned for children in 1847. In the 1918 Poor Law, the concept of the poor and his position in society differs considerably from that of the 1871 law. The introduction to the 1871 Act states that the poor relief is "a gift of mercy, which the poor cannot insist on", i.e. the poor should be satisfied with the help he or she received. The 1918 law goes in the opposite direction, now emphasizing that the care of the poor is "the obligation of society towards the poor". The view of the poor in the 1871 Act is rather harsh and indifferent, whereas the 1918 Act has a softer view of the poor for the time and expresses the idea that "even the poor have certain rights, which he can claim". In 1937, each municipality was obliged to keep a register of the relief activities in the municipality, i.e. the municipality was obliged to document its poor relief activities. In rural municipalities with a municipal office, the latter could keep the register and the responsibility then lay with the municipal committee, otherwise, it was the poor relief board that had the responsibility, but from 1957 it became the social welfare board (socialnämnden). Child welfare committees (barnavårdsnämnd) became compulsory in 1926. It was then possible to appoint a three-member committee, which was a combination of a child welfare board and a poor relief board.

Government Supervision

The care of the poor was the parish's business, from the beginning based on the old parish loyalty, when, of course, one took care of the "children of the parish" who had fallen on hard times. However, parish loyalty did not last in the face of the developments of the 19th century. The labor force became more mobile and the more people who lived from wage labor outside agriculture, the greater the risk of poverty caused by unemployment and not just by illness or old age as had been the case in the past. The government's intervention in the care of the poor was at first restricted to the laws and regulations on the care of the poor. The Government Inspector for Care of the Poor (fattigvårdsinspektör), attached to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), which had been established in 1912, was added by the 1918 Poor Law. The title was changed by the 1924 Child Welfare Act to Government Inspector of Poor Care and Child Welfare, who directed the work of the poor care and child welfare consultants. Under the 1918 Poor Law, the County Administrative Board (Länstyrelsen) was to supervise that municipalities provided poor services in accordance with the law. In this task, the County Administrative Board was to be assisted by a poor care consultant (fattigvårdskonsulent). No special training was required for the old parish poor care. It is only when government supervision is introduced that training becomes relevant. The first social work training was established in Stockholm in 1921 and developed into the Social Pedagogical Institute (Socialpedagogiska Institutet). Training in Gothenburg was added in 1944, in Lund in 1947, and in Umeå in 1962. These Social Institutes were run by municipalities. In 1963, the Social Institutes were nationalized and renamed as Social Colleges. The Social Colleges were established in Örebro in 1976 and Östersund in 1971.

Summary of the 1918 Poor-Law

Menu at Sabbatsberg Poorhouse 1866

For the midday meal each day there is also a soup dish, well prepared from healthy foods. Sunday- Cabbage soap Monday – Rice gruel Tuesday – Meat broth Wednesday - Rice gruel Thursday – Yellow pea soap Friday - Rice gruel Saturday – Oatmeal gruel
Source: Menu at Sabbatsberg Poorhouse in Stockholm in 1866. Stockholms stadsarkiv SE/SSA/0053/ Sabbatsbergs vård- och ålderdomshem, ämnesordnade handlingar F10, volym 1. Stockholmskällan.

Related Links

History of Swedish Hospitals The Conception of Socknen History of Swedish Prisons Crown Labor Corps (penal servitude)

Source References

Förvaltningshistorik 20 – Fattigvård och Socialtjänst, Ra Fattigvårdslagstiftningen, fattigvårdslagen 1918 Normen för fattigvård, En studie om 1871- och 1918 års fattigvårdsförordningar, kopplat till genus, klass och medborgarskap. Kandidatuppsats av Henrik Thörne, 2015. Det gamla Ytterlännäs av Sten Berglund, 1974. Kapitel 36, Några glimtar av äldre fattigvård. Wikipedia Top of Page