Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/77

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ber of visitors are needed, and we could not obtain them if those only were eligible who could give a large amount of time to the work. Even more intimate knowledge of individual families is secured in Marylebone than we have any evidence of in the case of Elberfeld, because here in their own small districts the visitors undertake duties for other bodies as well as for the Guardians. Our volunteers are constantly in the courts, on business connected with the local charities, with the Charity Organization Society, and also with the School Board: and though I must not here enlarge on the particular form of their work for these different bodies, I may point out that the entire truth is better elicited by those who come into communication with the poor in various ways: facts concealed from them in one capacity being revealed to them in another. For example, the desire on the part of parents to represent the ages of children to the Poor Law visitor as young enough to receive parochial relief, is counteracted by their desire to represent them to the school board visitor as old enough to exempt them from attendance at school.

The important difference between the Elberfeld and Marylebone systems is that, whereas in Elberfeld the volunteers themselves decide on the parochial relief, our volunteers have no such authority committed to them. It would be a fundamental change of the gravest nature to throw any share of such responsibility on the visitor, and would be a change not only disastrous, until the visitors have more experience, but in my opinion probably unadvisable even in the future. The large discretionary power exercised by Guardians under our English Poor Law (which contrasts with the very definite scale for out-door relief in use at Elberfeld) would make it an additional difficulty to place the decisions as to grants in the hands of visitors. In fact, in every case, so that only the evidence brought before him be sufficient, it is easier for a judge or arbitrator to deal in a uniform manner with cases which come before him when he is not brought into close communication with those