Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/90

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76
POOR LAW


infirm, sick or disabled by any injury, or above sixty years of age to live together, but every such case must be reported to the local government board (39 & 40 Vict. c. 61, § 10).

The classification of children apart from adult paupers is peremptory. Even in those unions where what is called a workhouse school is maintained the children are kept in detached parts of the building, and do not associate with the adult paupers. The separate school is built on a separate and often distant site. Sometimes the separate school is one building, sometimes detached “ blocks, " and sometimes a group of cottage homes. There still remain ten district schools. In some places an experiment which is called the scattered homes system has been adopted. This consists in lodging-homes for the children placed indifferent parts of the town, from which the children attend the local public elementary schools. In the rural districts and in less populous unions the children generally attend the local public elementary school. To these expedients boarding-out must be added. The above refers of course only to those children who as inmates are under the charge of the guardians. Outdoor paupers are responsible for the education of their children, but guardians cannot legally continue outdoor relief if the children are not sent regularly to school.

The tendency too has been to improve administrative methods with reference to children.

Two important orders on the subject of the boarding-out of poorlaw children were issued in 1889. By the Boarding of Children in Unions Order, orphan and deserted children can be boarded out with suitable foster-parents in the union by all boards of guardians except those in the metropolis. This can be done either through a voluntary committee or directly. By the Boarding Out Order, orphan and deserted children may be boarded out by all boards of guardians without the limits of their own unions, but in all cases this must be done through the offices of properly constituted local boarding-out committees. The sum payable to the foster-parents is not to exceed 4s. per week for each child. The local committee require to be approved by the Local Government Board. The question of the education of poor law children was much discussed in later years. During the early years of the central authority, it was the object of the commissioners to induce boards of guardians to unite in districts for educational purposes. This was advocated on grounds of efficiency and economy. It was ve unpopular with the local authorities, and the number of such districts has never exceeded a dozen. In London, where this aggregation was certainly less desirable than in rural unions, several districts were formed and large district schools were built. Adverse criticism, by Mrs Nassau Senior in 1874, and by a department committee appointed twenty years later, was directed against these large, or, as they are invidiously called, barrack schools. The justice of this condemnation has been disputed, but it seems probable that some of these schools had grown too large. Many of these have been dissolved by order of the local government board on the application of the unions concerned. This condemnation of some schools has in certain quarters been extended to all schools, and is construed by others as an unqualified recommendation of boarding out, a method of bringing up poor law children obviously requiring even more careful supervision than is needed in the publicity of a school.

Other acts to be noted are the Poor Law Act 1889 and the Custody of Children Act 1891, § 3. The evil of allowing children who have been reputably brought up in poor law schools to relapse into vicious habits on return to the custody of unworthy parents has been the subject of frequent remark. By the act of 1889, guardians are authorized to detain children who are under their charge, as having been deserted by their parents, up to the age of 16 if boys and of 18 if girls. By the Poor Law Act 1899 the principle is extended to orphans and the children of bad parents chargeable to the rates. The act of 1891 goes further, and enacts that where a parent has (a) abandoned or deserted his child, or (b) allowed his child to be brought up by another person at that person's expense, or by the guardians of a poor law union for such a length of time and in such circumstances as to satisfy the court that the parent was unmindful of his parental duties, the court shall not make an order for the delivery of the child to the parent unless the parent has satisfied the court that, having regard to the welfare of the child, he is a fit person to have the custody of the child.

Casual and poor wayfarers admitted by the master and matron are kept in a separate ward and dieted and set to work in such manner as the guardians by resolution direct; and whenever any vagrants or mendicants are received into a workhouse they are usually (as a precaution necessary for preventing the introduction of infectious or contagious diseases) kept entirely separate from the other inmates, unless their stay exceeds a single night. For the guidance of guardians an important circular was issued from the local government board on the 15th of March 1886. It stated that while “ the board have no doubt that the powers which the guardians possess are fully sufficient to enable them to deal with ordinary pauperism, and to meet the demand for relief from the classes who usually seek it, " yet “ these provisions do not in all cases meet the emergency. What is required to relieve artisans and others who have hitherto avoided poor law assistance, and who are temporarily deprived of employment, is—(1) Work which will not involve the stigma of pauperism; (2) work which all can perform, whatever may have been their previous occupations; (3) work which does not compete with that of other labourers at present in employment; and lastly, work which is not likely to interfere with the resumption of regular employment in their own trades by those who seek it.”

The circular went on to recommend that guardians should confer with the local authorities, “and endeavour to arrange with the latter for the execution of works on which unskilled labour may be immediately employed." The conditions of such work were (1) the men to be employed must be recommended by the guardians; (2) the wages must be less than the wages ordinarily paid for such work.

The circular was widely distributed. Many boards that were inclined in that direction regarded it as an encouragement to open or to promote the opening of relief works. Others, again, looked closely at the conditions, and declared roundly that it was impossible to fulfil them. A poor law authority, they said, cannot give relief which will not subject the recipients to the legal (if any) and economic disabilities attaching to the receipt of poor law relief. Work which all can perform can only be found in the shape of task-work under adequate supervision. If the work is of a useful and necessary character, it must compete with the labour of others belonging to the trades affected. If the relief works are opened by authorities other than the poor law guardians, the conditions that the men were only to be employed when recommended by the guardians, and then paid less than the current rate of wages, were calculated, it was urged, to secure bad work, discontent, and all the “stigma of pauperism.” The ambiguity of the circular indeed was such, that both action and inaction seem amply justified by it.

In the administration of medical relief to the sick, the objects kept in view are: (1) to provide medical aid for persons who are really destitute, and (2) to prevent medical relief from generating or encouraging pauperism, and with this view to withdraw from the labouring classes, as well Medical Relief. as from the administrators of relief and the medical officers, all motives for applying for or administering medical relief, unless where the circumstances render it absolutely necessary. Unions are formed into medical districts limited in area and population, to which a paid medical officer is appointed, who is furnished with a list of all such aged and infirm persons and persons permanently sick or disabled as are actually receiving relief and residing within the medical officer's district. Every person named in the list receives a ticket, and on exhibiting it to the medical officer is entitled to advice, attendance and medicine as his case may require. Medical outdoor relief in connexion with dispensaries is regulated in asylum districts of the metropolis by the Metropolitan Poor Act 1867 (30 & 31 Viet. c. 6). In connexion with medical relief must be noted the Medical Relief Disqualification Removal Act 1885. This act relieved voters from disqualification which would otherwise attach in consequence of the receipt by them or their families of medical or surgical assistance, or of medicine, at the expense of the poor rate. This does not apply to guardian elections, and it does not include persons who, in addition to medical relief, receive nourishment or other relief from the poor rate. The provisions which require the removal of the names of paupers from the electoral roll are, it is understood, very perfunctorily carried out. The Outdoor Relief Friendly Societies Act 1894 authorized guardians, in calculating the proper allowance to be made, to disregard an income derived from a friendly society, and to give relief as if the applicant in receipt of such an allowance was wholly destitute. This act is a curious illustration of the English poor law system. In earlier years, notably in what is known as Paget's letter (22nd Rep. Poor Law Board, p. 108), the central board, had, in answer to inquiry, pointed out that such preferential treatment given to men receiving benefit, insufficient to maintain them, from a friendly society, could not in equity be withheld from persons in receipt of an adequate benefit, or from those whose savings took the form of a deposit in a bank, of a share in a co-operative society, or of cottage property; and further, that an engagement on the part of guardians to supplement insufficient allowance from a friendly society was a bounty on inadequate and insolvent friendly society finance. The central board went so far as to say that relief given in such disregard of the pauper's income was illegal. They had, however, issued no peremptory order on the subject, nor had guardians been surcharged for neglect of the rule. The local authorities followed their own discretion, and a very general practice was to reckon friendly society allowances at half their value. The above act set aside the central board's earlier interpretation of the law. It .made, however, no attempt to enforce its procedure on the numerous boards of guardians who regard the course thereby authorized as contrary to public policy.

A lunatic asylum is required to be provided by a county or borough for the reception of pauper lunatics, with a committee of visitors who, among other duties, fix a weekly sum to be charged for the lodging, maintenance, medicine and clothing of each pauper lunatic confined in such asylum. Several Lunatics. acts were passed. The Lunacy Act 1890 consolidated the acts

affecting lunatics. It was further amended by the Lunacy Act 1891.