he workhouse system was established in 1838 with the creation of the Irish Poor Law Act, as the first form of social welfare put in place by the British government. In theory, the workhouses would house and feed the most vulnerable of the population, in exchange for work that would in turn benefit the economy. However, the reality of the situation ended up being very different from what would have been expected. There had previously been workhouses in England, which had experienced moderate success, and were considered to aid those who were “completely destitute”. Since Ireland had no “means of finding employment for her agricultural population”, the Irish were in dire need of a solution to the widespead poverty. Tasked with surveying the poor, the Royal Commission was established in 1833, with Archbishop Whateley, chair of the commission, committing himself to finding a solution for the paupers (a separate class who had no land to work on in order to be considered subsistence farmers). Yet the mitigation of destitution he proposed was rejected, in favour of workhouses, which was highly critisized. The workhouses were able to support 100,000 people, but were only expected to be needed to provide relief for one percent of the population. In reality, there were to be over three million who would require relief, and the workhouses were so overcrowded they were forced to turn people away. The low expectancy for the workhouses were due to them being notorious for their terrible conditions. When established in Ireland, there were strict instructions by the British government to make the living conditions worse than those of an independent worker, to disuade people from taking advantage of the workhouses. The residents, referred to as ‘inmates’, were mainly paupers, orphans, elderly, the disabled, unmarried mothers, and the homeless. By the end of the famine, however, there were thousands of families who were forced to come to the workhouses for support.