Vagrancy meant having no visible means of support. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was an offence for which people could be imprisoned. An adult convicted of vagrancy could have their children committed to the state under child welfare legislation.
Legislators based some aspects of child welfare legislation on vagrancy laws. For instance, section four of the 1867 Industrial Schools Act stipulates that a child 'found wandering and not having any home or settled place of abode, or proper guardianship, or visible means of subsistence' was neglected. A similar form of words persisted in all subsequent legislation until the 1997 Children, Young Persons and their Families Act.
Sources used to compile this entry: .
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 26 October 2011, Last modified: 25 February 2014