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A Poor Law Union was a unit used for local government in the United Kingdom from the 19th century. During this time, the administration of the Poor Law was the responsibility of parishes, which varied wildly in their financial resources and requirements. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 allowed parishes to form unions, which would be jointly responsible for the administration and funding of Poor Law in their area.

The English Poor Laws were the system of poor relief which existed in England and Wales from the reign of Elizabeth I to the emergence of the modern welfare state after the Second World War. Historian Mark Blaug has argued the Poor Law system provided "a welfare state in miniature, relieving the elderly, widows, children, the sick, the disabled, and the unemployed and underemployed".

The functions of Poor Law Unions were exercised by Boards of Poor Law Guardians, partly elected by ratepayers, but also including magistrates.

Until 1894, the Guardians consisted of justices of the peace along with other members elected by rate-payers, with higher rate-payers having more votes. JPs were removed and plural voting stopped in 1894, although no people actually receiving poor relief were able to vote.

The Unions were later used for other functions, such as civil registration, and were the basis of the rural sanitary districts established in 1875. [194907]

In 1894, rural districts and urban districts were set up based on the sanitary districts (and therefore indirectly on the unions). In 1930, under the Local Government Act 1929, the Poor Law Unions were finally abolished, with their responsibilities transferred to the county councils and county boroughs.

In Irelandmarker the Poor Relief Act of 1838 divided into districts or "unions" in which the local taxable inhabitants were to be financially responsible for all paupers in the area. In 1898 the Poor Law Union was adopted as the basic administrative division in place of the civil parish and barony. Further subdivision into 828 registration districts and 3,751 district electoral divisions followed. Townlands were not arranged according to these divisions with parish and barony retained as a means to make comparisons with records gathered before 1898.

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