Victorians were believers in 'self-help'. This convenient philosophy meant that they could refuse help to the poor, whom they believed could become successful through sheer hard work and thrift. Many Victorians (not all) felt that the poor were to blame for their own poverty. They were thus not unfortunate, but had chosen to be indolent and poor. This is why the workhouse was intended to be as unpleasant as possible, to discourage people from asking for help from the state.