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UNVERSTYO CA FORNIA SAN DIEGO



3 1822 02244 9847




UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORN A SAN D EGC



3 1822022449847



THE POOR LAW REPORT

of 1909



MACM1LLAN AND CO., LIMITED

ION DON . BOMBAY . CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK . BOSTON . CHICAGO
ATLANTA . SAN FRANCISCO

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO



THE

POOR LAW REPORT

OF 1909

A Summary 'Explaining the Defects of the
Present System and the Principal 'Recom-
mendations of the Commission^ so far as
relates to ILngland and Wales.



BY

HELEN BOSANQUET



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON

1911



RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED,
BRUNSWICK STREET, STAMFORD STREET, S.B.
AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.



First Edition, February, 1909

Reprinted, March and August, 1909.

Shilling Edition, 1911.



PREFACE

IN attempting to summarise and explain within
moderate compass the main recommendations of
the Report of the Poor Law Commission and the
grounds upon which they are based, it has been
necessary to make considerable omissions. In
order that the reader may know in general what
has been omitted I have appended a table showing
the contents of the Report itself, but will also call
attention to the chief points here. In the first
place, I have refrained from introducing many
technical details, which, however important in
themselves and to those actually engaged in
administration, seemed not essential to the under-
standing of the general position. In the second
place, I have also refrained, and this time with
more reluctance, from attempting to summarise
those sections of the Report which are mainly
historical, or descriptive of conditions outside the
immediate sphere of the Poor Law itself. More
especially of importance are Chapter I of Part VI.
and Part VII. The first of these contains in a
concise and interesting form a mass of information



vi PREFACE

concerning industrial developments since 1834,
which is here for the first time made accessible in
a consecutive narrative, and is of special signifi-
cance in connection with the history and present
position of unemployment. The second, Part VII.,
which is a comprehensive survey of the charities
of the country and their administration, is no less
important from the point of view of the charitable
relief of distress ; and if the reader of the following
chapters fails to find them convincing, he may
confidently look for their fuller justification in the
Report itself. The marginal references are to the
Parts, chapters and paragraphs of the Report.

Notwithstanding all omissions, however, I hope
that I may have succeeded in making clear the
main intention of the Report. That intention, in
few words, is to substitute a vital and organic
system of combined public and voluntary assist-
ance for the mechanical routine of the Poor Law
on the one hand, and the confused chaos of charity
on the other. If this intention is to be carried
into effect it can only be by the combined effort
of all who are interested in bringing help and
strength to the poorer and weaker members of the
community.

OXSHOTT,

February, 1909.



CONTENTS



CHAPTER I

THE PROBLEM



CHAPTER II
STATISTICS AND CAUSES OF PAUPERISM . . . .13

CHAPTER III
THE AGED ........... 43

CHAPTER IV

THE CHILDREN ........ . .64

CHAPTER V

THE ABLE-BODIED ......... 90

CHAPTER VI

THE PUBLIC ASSISTANCE AUTHORITY ..... 144

CHAPTER VII

THE USE AND ABUSE OF "OUTDOOR RELIEF" . . 169

CHAPTER VIII

MEDICAL RELIEF ......... 2o8

CHAPTER IX

DETENTION UNMARRIED MOTHERS INSURANCE DIS-

FRANCHISEMENT ........ 241

APPENDIX I. CONTENTS OF THE REPORT OF THE

ROYAL COMMISSION ON POOR LAWS, 1909 . . . 26l

APPENDIX II. LIST OF APPENDIX VOLUMES TO THE
REPORTS OF THE POOR ^AW COMMISSION FOR
ENGLAND AND WALES, SCOTLAND, AND IRELAND . 264



THE POOR LAW REPORT
OF 1909

CHAPTER I

THE PROBLEM

WHAT is the Poor Law, and who are the people
to whom it applies ?

Every civilised country has a different answer
to give to this question, but in their main outlines
all answers will coincide.

In the first place, the law which we in England call
the Poor Law, but which receives more appropriate
names in other countries, is that law which regu-
lates the administration or distribution of assistance
from public funds to private individuals on the
ground of their failure to provide for themselves.

In the second place, the ultimate fact upon which
all systems of public assistance are based is the
fact that there are in every country persons who,
for one reason or another, are found to be without
the necessaries of life, whether provided by their

I



2 THE POOR LAW REPORT CHAP.

own exertions or by their friends and relations.
In the absence of any legal provision, these persons
either die or are maintained by the charity of the
benevolent. In most Christian communities it
has originally been considered that the charity
either of private persons or of religious com-
munities should be sufficient to meet the need,
and under these conditions begging has become a
recognised means of obtaining a living. In a
small community, where begging is only an appeal
from one neighbour to another, the arrangement
may serve well enough ; but it leads to intolerable
evils, both of fraud and neglected suffering, where it
prevails in larger communities ; and sooner or
later it has always been considered necessary for
the law to intervene and regularise the situation.
That has been done by defining where the respon-
sibility for the maintenance of these people lies,
and by making the responsibility one to be
enforced by law.

In England the duty was laid in the first
instance upon the family, and failing this upon the
parish, until at the beginning of last century it
was found that for many reasons the parish was
too small an area for effective administration.
Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834
parishes were then grouped into unions, and each



i THE PROBLEM 3

union of parishes became responsible first for
administering, and finally for providing, the neces-
sary funds within their area. Since then the
responsibility of administration has remained with
the union, but there has been a constant tendency
to widen the area of financial responsibility by
means of subsidies from various sources until at the iv. 4, 177
present time the percentage of expenditure on poor
relief which is not met from local sources is about^
20 per cent, m* London the tendency has been
pushed so far that 70 per cent, of the total iv. 4, 178
expenditure by Boards of Guardians is now borne
by the grants made out of sums raised by Imperial
taxation or other receipts in aid, or by rates levied
throughout London in the proportion of the rate-
able value of the unions.

Thus the legal responsibility lies in the first
place upon the individual if capable to main-
tain himself ; in the second place it lies upon his
family ; and failing both these it lies ultimately
upon the ratepayers of the union and county, and
the taxpayers of the country.

Now at first sight it seems obvious that it is to
the interest of the community that the number of
those who are dependent upon public assistance
should be as small as possible. And ultimately,
also, this is indisputable : the community, from an

B 2



4 THE POOR LAW REPORT CHAP.

economic point of view, is only the sum of its
members, and if half of these fail to maintain
themselves, the other half will have twice as many
to maintain. But the statement needs modifying
in its immediate application. It pays the com-
munity far better in the long run to gather in the
waifs and strays of children for whom no one is
caring, than to leave them to grow up as loafers
and criminals. It would pay it far better, again,
to maintain its loafers and vagrants in labour
colonies, where they could be made to do some
work before eating, than to leave them to maintain
themselves by begging and theft. But unless a
community is to become bankrupt it must keep
steadily in view the importance of enforcing upon
the individual the primary duty of being self-
supporting.

It is this which constitutes one of the chief
difficulties of any scheme of public assistance.
The mere fact that a provision exists for those
who fail in this primary duty causes many to fail
who might otherwise have succeeded. It is
difficult for anyone not intimately acquainted
with Poor Law administration to realise that many
of those who claim relief are suffering from sheer
laziness. The workhouse inmate who declared
that " So long as 1 can get sixteen ounces of pie



for my dinner, and my two children kept for life,
and they don't ask me to do any more than polish
the stair bannisters, I'm not going to work," was
perhaps more outspoken, but not more lazy, than
many another of his kind. Nor is it widely
enough known how many who are incapable are so
through their wilful violation of the laws of sobriety
and morality. It is not of course true that poverty
is always a crime ; the sternest administrator has
never thought or said so. But the poverty which
is due to excess or self-indulgence is a crime, and
should be more frankly recognised as such.

Thus the problem of public assistance presents it-
self as the problem of offering help in such a way as
to diminish rather than to increase the number of
those requiring it. There are two lines of policy which
offer a solution of the problem the one to make I*
the conditions of assistance so disagreeable that no
one will accept thgm who can possibly jielp ft ;
the other to make the assistance so effective that it 1
will ultimately remove the cause of distress.
There have been times in the history of the Poor
Law when both these considerations were practically
in abeyance, when relief was given on easy terms to
anyone who demanded it, while yet there was no
effective assistance such as could restore the
recipients to independence.



6 THE POOR LAW REPORT CHAP.

But the true test of good administration is the
degree of success which it achieves in combining a
policy which shall not encourage laziness and self-
indulgence with one which shall be really remedial
in the assistance afforded. It fails when it is
attractive to the profligate, but it fails no less
when it is deterrent to those who might be restored
by its services to health and independence.

How far does the Poor Law, as administered in
England to-day, satisfy this test ?

The answer will be given more in detail in
subsequent chapters. Here we may note certain
broad conclusions from facts which have revealed
themselves in the course of the enquiry.

i. With respect to certain classes of the children
the administrators of" tFe Poor Law may claim a
very remarkable success, in the sense that those of
whom they have taken entire charge, and for
whom they have made special provision, have been
almost entirely rescued from the pauper class and
given a fair start to a healthy and independent life.
There are, however, other and larger classes of
children dependent upon public assistance for whom
little attempt has been made to secure that they
are properly brought up, and it is to be feared that
many of these will contribute to the pauperism of
the next generation (see Ch. 4).



i THE PROBLEM 7

2. With regard to the sick, again, very marked
success has attended the constant efforts of the
Poor Law authorities in many places to improve
the treatment of patients who enter their institu-
tions. If the treatment of out-door patients has
been less emphatically successful, it has been
largely due to the difficulty of enforcing proper
conditions in the home (see Ch. 8).

3. In our treatment of the aged, also, both
success and failure have to be recorded. Of those
in institutions some find comfort and luxury far
beyond the attainment of the independent members
of their own class, others lead monotonous and
dejected lives in costly buildings under extravagant
management, and others again are dreary in dreary
surroundings. Amongst those receiving out-relief 1
the discrepancies are even greater ; many are half-
starved on an utterly inadequate allowance, while
many more who have no need of public assistance
at all receive allowances at the expense of neigh-
bours who are more independent but hardly ,
better off (see Ch. 3).

4. The most serious failure in recent years has
been in dealing with the able-bodied. Here the
policy of the authorities has aimed at being
deterrent, and its failure has been twofold. It has
failed conspicuously to deter the idle and worthless



8 THE POOR LAW REPORT CHAP.

0i who are indifferent to humiliation so long as they
are well-fed ; while its failure to make separate
provision for the more respectable has given rise
to the spasmodic and ill-regulated attempts of
amateur agencies to supply the deficiency (see
Ch. 5).

The fact that success and failure are so mingled
suggests that the defects to be remedied must
be sought more in the administration of the
law than in the law itself; hence it is the
administration which the Commissioners in their
recommendations mainly seek to improve. If all
Boards of Guardians had been working as well
as the best, there would probably have been no
demand for an enquiry, and little need of change.
But in a subsequent chapter we shall see how very
far that is from being the case, and what imperative
need there is in many places to find administrators
who will be more disinterested, more honest, and
more intelligent.

There is no doubt that the work is one of great
difficulty. The population which comes within
the scope of the Poor Law is made up of the most
heterogeneous elements. Individuals of every age,
of every shade of character, of every degree of
physical or moral incapacity, with every variety of
disease or disability, are all brought together by



THE PROBLEM



9



the one common fact that they demand to be
maintained at the cost of the community. It ha&
been argued by some members of the Commission
that the differences are so great as to outweigh the
common element, and that the responsibility for pro-
viding for each particular need should be assigned
to a special authority, regardless of whether the
people to be provided for were to be maintained by
the ratepayers or not. Thus, the children would
be assigned to the Education authority and the
sick to the Sanitary authority. The majority of'



the Commission hpldy on the contrary, that the
common element ''is so important as to justify
indeed, to necessitate the existence of a special
law to authorise and regulate the relief of these
people, and of a special authority to apply and to
administer that law. When an individual claims to
be maintained "at the cost of the community, it is
clear that the claim cannot be an unconditional
No State has ever yet offered, or ever can



one.



offer, free maintenance to everyone who likes to
apply for it, whatever his circumstances may
be ; and it becomes necessary that every claim
should be immediately submitted to a judicial
authority which will decide whether the applicant
is entitled to receive public assistance. Upon this
authority there naturally devolves also the duty of



A^^La-rviv.

10 THE POOR LAW REPORT CHAP.

deciding what form the assistance to be given shall
take. In doing this it has to bear in mind
the interests both of the recipient and of the
community at whose expense he is asking to
be maintained. It does not follow that the man
who asks for help necessarily knows what will
help him most ; the fact that he has failed to
maintain his independence often means that he
does not know. What is needed is a disinterested
authority, practised in looking at all sides of
a question, and able to call in skilled assistance.

_V-jk ^ ^M*" ^MM^mM^HaMHMMHMMM

The specialist is too apt to see only what interests



him to be a safe guide in the first instance. For
the community, again, the paramount interest
is that those who are incapable of maintaining
themselves should be as few as possible ;
and, as we have already said, it is the duty
of the administrator on the one hand to
endeavour to remedy real incapacity, on the
other hand to discourage wilful incapacity. By
wilfully incapable persons we mean those who
wantonly destroy their powers of work by self-
indulgence, or wilfully refuse to exercise them
because they prefer to be kept by the work of
others. The number of those persons is increased
at once by a relaxation in the vigilance of the



A^

i THE PROBLEM 11

administrator. Hence arises the necessity both of
employing skilled officials to ascertain the true,
circumstances of every applicant, and of guarding
against the danger that dependence should be
made more attractive than independence. The
majority of the Commission are convinced that
it would be quite impracticable for the Education
authority and the Sanitary authority to carry out
these duties of discrimination and adjudication
effectually, and that it is necessary that there should
continue to be a special authority for the purpose.
Moreover, and this should be carefully noted, it is
more than doubtful whether the " specialised
services " would do the work even as well as it is
now being done in many unions. It is very largely
due to failure of the Education authorities to train
the children under their care that so many seek
help in after life from sheer incapacity to do any-
thing useful. And it is very largely due to grave
neglect of the Sanitary authorities to fulfil their
present duties that so many victims of ill-health
are reduced to pauperism. It would be folly to
throw back upon proved incompetency the task of
restoring the victims of that incompetency. It
needs highly-skilled workers, practised in dealing
with specially difficult cases, and qualified by



12 THE POOR LAW REPORT CH. i

training and experience for the task of restoration ;
it needs, in short, officers such as those in charge
of the best Poor Law schools and infirmaries.

Since 1834 the special authority for administer-
ing the Poor Law has been the Board of Guardians
in each union, elected by the ratepayers, and
working under the general supervision and control
of the Local Government Board. The Commission
i recommends great changes in the constitution of
I this authority, and in order to understand their
recommendations and the reasons for them it is
necessary to describe in more detail the actual
work done by the Guardians and the condition of
the people under their care. In ascertaining this
the Commissioners have not been content to take
the evidence of other people only ; they have been
at great pains to see for themselves so far as that
was practicable in the limited time at their disposal.
They have visited unions in all parts of the
country, they have attended Board Meetings and
Relief Committees, they have seen institutions of
all types, and have talked with the recipients of
out-relief in their own homes. Thus they may
fairly claim to have a first-hand general knowledge
of the working and effect of the Poor Law as at
present administered.



CHAPTER II



THE population dealt with yearly by the Poor
Law is large, and constantly changing. It is
generally reckoned for the purposes of official
statistics by returns from each union, which are
combined to show the total number of persons
relieved on certain selected days. Of these returns,
the most detailed are those which give the
numbers relieved on January ist and July 1st in
each year. The summer pauperism is always
considerably lower than the winter, and in order to
obtain an estimate of the general level of pauperism
throughout the year, the practice is to take the
mean of these two returns as representing the
average pauperism for the year to which they
relate. The result obtained in this way for 1907
by combining the January and July counts was
793,519 : a population considerably larger than

13



' '



14 THE POOR LAW REPORT CHAP.

that of Liverpool, and representing 22-7 per 1,000
of the whole population of England and Wales.

But a return so obtained does not tell the whole
story. To a large extent the pauper population is
a changing one ; many people go off the relief
lists during the year, many others come on, a con-
siderable number are constantly going off and
coming on again. Thus it happens that a " day
count " shows only how many are being relieved
at a given time, and not the whole number who at
one time or another during the year obtain relief.

In order to get fuller information for the Com-
mission as to what proportion of the population
belongs either continuously or intermittently to
the pauper class, a special record was kept in 1907
giving full particulars of every case dealt with
during the whole year by each Board of Guardians.
The results of this record are of great interest in
many ways, and show amongst other facts that the
number of persons dealt with throughout the year
is more than twice as great as the number obtained
by the day count. During the year 1907 the
number of those who received relief of one kind or
11.5 another was ,706,592, or 47 per 1000 of the
total population. 1 Thus we may say that while

1 These figures are subject to possibly slight modification owing to
errors of duplication, &c. ; also they exclude casual paupers and certain
lunatics.



ii STATISTICS AND CAUSES 15

at any given time the proportion of paupers to
Dooulation will be between two and three in everv



population will be between two and three in every



hundred, yet the proportion liable to become



paupers some time during the year will be between



four and five in every hundred. It is this four or
five out of every hundred which constitutes the
population to be dealt with by means of public
assistance.

Many interesting facts as to the different classes
of whom this population is constituted are brought
out in Part II. of the Report : " Statistical Survey
of Poor Law Problems." A few of them may
be noted here. In the first place, it appears n. 6
that nearly half of the paupers on any given
day are women ; the other half including both
men and children. But this discrepancy tends
to disappear on the year's count, by which thejrate i
of pauperism for women is shown to be only slightly ';
in excess of that for men. The conclusion is that
the average duration of relief is longer amongst \
women than amongst men. The men, that is,
apply more for short periods of help during
temporary disability ; while the women, especially
the widows with young children, if they need
assistance at all, need it for a considerable time.

Perhaps the most striking difference between
men and women is shown in the kind of relief



16 THE POOR LAW REPORT CHAP.

they receive. Of the whole population receiving
n. 16, 17 assistance on January 1st, 1908, rather less than a
third were in institutions, and rather more than
two-thirds were receiving out-door relief. But
while more than half the men were in institutions,
four-fifths of the women and three-fourths of the
children were receiving out-door relief. To a
small extent this may be due to reluctance to grant
out-door relief to able-bodied men, but the excess
was mainly amongst the old. The greater facility
with which elderly men enter the workhouse than
do elderly women is very striking ; when visiting
the workhouses we nearly always found in them
twice as many old men as old women. The
explanation was generally the same that the old
men gave up sooner, while the old women could
keep their little homes nice, and even earn a few
pence to supplement the out-relief, to a much
greater age.

II. 24 IV To some extent this excess of men in Poor Law
II institutions is o? recent growth. A table in
' paragraph 24 of Part II. shows that while female
and child pauperism have both decreased during
the last thirty years, male pauperism has actually
increased. Several causes are suggested which
may have contributed to this increase, but the
only one which would apply solelv (or mainly) to



ii STATISTICS AND CAUSES 17

men is the series of Workmen's Compensation
Acts, which have made it



a man to get work as he advances in years. It is
probable also that the large amount of relief
provided outside the Poor Law for the unem-
ployed has reduced some to pauperism by causing
them to rely upon other than their own resources.

Some interesting facts are brought out in H- 31 *?
connection with the " period and recurrence of
relief." Nearly one-tjiirdofthe whole number I
relieved in._j:ne year 1^06-7 were practically jj


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryHelen Dendy BosanquetThe Poor Law Report of 1909. A summary explaining the defects of the present system and the principal recommendations of the Commission, so far as relates to England and Wales → online text (page 1 of 15)