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It is, therefore, not surprising that the standard of education is deplorably low. All the children should be sent daily to elementary “provided" schools ; but as long as workhouse schools continue to exist, they should be controlled by the Board of Education, and supervised by its inspectors. None but very young children should be in the workhouse. I think there is no sadder sight to be seen than a band of children doomed to spend their days in the company of a number of aged women, in an atmosphere of perpetual melancholy, and deprived of all the joys of childhood. The kind people who send them sixpences and toys at Christmas never know what really becomes of their gifts. How many of the sixpences find their way to the public-house no man can tell, but I know that this wellintentioned annual gift of an anonymous reader of a certain weekly journal is the cause of much pain and tribulation, whilst, as to the toys, I have seen in one workhouse a rocking horse and another horse on wheels carefully put away so that the children could not use them. The new era has already begun. In 536 out of 619 unions having children of school age the majority are sent to the Public Elementary Schools, but more than half the children are still in Poor Law Schools.
After the Children's Schooldays. Too little consideration is given by the Local Government Board and the majority of Boards of Guardians to the training of the boys and girls under their control. The boys for the most part are placed out as errand-boys, enlist in the army, are sent to sea, are emigrated, or are apprenticed to some trade. All the children should receive adequate technical training at the end of their elementary education, in order to give them as good a start in life as possible, and the apprenticeship to unskilled trades should at once be abandoned. There is no provision made, so far as the Local Government Board and the Board of Guardians are concerned, for helping the boys after they have left the schools. The girls fare far worse than the boys in the attention given to their training. If they have an opportunity of picking up a little knowledge of sewing, knitting, and darning, and, in exceptional cases, plain cooking, they are lucky. The only career which seems to be thought possible for them is that of domestic service, for which they receive no special training. Consequently they become not skilled workers, but domestic drudges of the most incompetent and hopeless type. Out of 508 girls sent out in 1903 in London, 503 became domestic servants. Once out at service they are off the hands of the Guardians and at the mercy of the world, which is thoughtless and unsympathetic. They have no homes, and, but for the existence of charitable societies such as the Girls' Friendly Society and the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants, they would have no refuge to go to in case of need, and little chance of redress for any injustice or wrong done to them by inconsiderate mistresses and their families. Many drift from domestic service to life on the streets. Girls should at least have some voice in choosing their occupation at home, and equal opportunity with the boys of
settling across the sea. The admirable societies which look after girls and boys when they pass from the control of the Guardians might perhaps be given some legal authority over them as long as they are under age. There are no statistics to show what proportion of the children who are born paupers close their lives in the workhouse, and the opinions of different Guardians I have consulted vary considerably; but it is certain that the amount of adult pauperism can be reduced by cutting off the supply of juvenile paupers.
The Sick and Insane. From the evidence given before a Committee of the House of Lords, which reported in 1888, it appears that the idea of treating the sick poor merely as sick, and not as paupers, was so objectionable to the Birmingham Guardians that they determined to make all persons who come to their infirmary pass through the gate which leads to the workhouse grounds, so that they may not draw a distinction between the workhouse and the infirmary.”. This peculiar refinement of inhumanity has not commended itself to many other places, but it is quite time that the sick, insane, and temporarily disabled, who make up at least 15 per cent. of the recipients of relief, should, along with the aged and the children, be depauperized. The workhouse infirmary should be rechristened the local hospital, or affiliated to it, and the whole machinery of medical and surgical relief should be taken out of the hands of the Guardians. The public provision for the sick ; the building and maintaining of hospitals of all kinds, and of dispensaries, asylums, and other similar institutions, together with those already in existence, should be placed under a popularly elected authority. In London one-third of the cost of these public institutions is already defrayed out of the rates. In the meantime, however, the large number of epileptics now classified as “not ablebodied," and kept in separate wards of the workhouse, should be placed in the infirmary. The lying-in ward should also be detached from the workhouse. The care and nursing of the sick should be placed in the hands of skilled nurses, and no paupers should be employed in the infirmaries. At present the staff of nurses is insufficient, and grossly underpaid ; and assistance has to be obtained from paupers. One inspector describes as “on the whole satisfactory" a proportion of 39 trained, certificated nurses out of a total staff of 209. Indeed, the state of things is so bad that it may still be described as "a squalid scramble, miscalled nursing."
The Workhouse. Many workhouses are administered with admirable efficiency, and the inmates treated with humanity, but the majority could undoubtedly be vastly improved. Nearly one-third of the workhouse inmates are sixty-five years old or over, and until we have arranged a national pension and almshouse scheme they must remain in the house. But their lives may be rendered more tolerable in a score of ways. Many of the workhouse buildings are not fit to be used; they are often mere wooden shanties, little better than make-shifts.
In one case an erection of corrugated iron, formerly occupied by cholera patients, serves as at once a living and sleeping ward of a London workhouse. Some buildings are so bad that they have been condemned as insanitary even by our not too squeamish or active local authorities. In many cases the drains are hopelessly bad, proper warming and ventilation are quite impossible, the lavatory and closet accommodation is grossly inadequate, and the danger from fire is great. The more modern buildings are better in these respects. But in the internal arrangements there is still much room for reform. The same building often contains aged men and women, epileptics and lunatics, able-bodied of both sexes, and a sprinkling of children. There is insufficient room for carrying out the present system of classification, to say nothing of any extension of it. Very often old and young, feeble and strong, sane and mentally deficient, respectable and disreputable are lodged in the same workhouse, sometimes even in the same ward. It is by no means unusual for a workhouse to contain permanently a number of inmates considerably in excess of its authorized number. Inspectors are continually calling attention to the congestion of numbers. It sometimes happens that London Boards of Guardians have to farm out paupers to a country Union. The wards are over-crowded with beds; and in one notorious instance twenty-nine men in one ward and three women in another had, and may still have, to find their night quarters on the floor.
Little or no thought seems to be given to the decoration of the wards. In most cases it seems to be left to the artistic taste of the chaplain. A great improvement can be made by the introduction of a larger number of colored and other pictures, and the removal of some of the superfluous Scripture texts and mottoes, often of a far from comforting character, which seem to be the clerical notion of adornment of the walls. A regular and sufficient supply of daily and weekly papers, chosen to suit the political opinions and literary tastes of the inmates, should be provided. This is one of the chief points in which the intolerance of some Guardians finds its vent. The libraries, which usually consist of old volumes of the “ Tract Magazine" and "Sunday at Home," and the like, might be varied by the addition of more books of a secular and lighter kind. Most Boards of Guardians would gladly accept gifts of pictures, books, and newspapers, and illustrated papers are especially desired. Spectacles, to suit the sight of the reader, should be provided whenever they are required. More encouragement might be given to visitors in the arrangement of entertainments for the inmates, who might reasonably be expected to appreciate a little music and recreation all the year round, and not only at Christmas time. Some Boards are so churlish as to refuse all offers of concerts, etc., but as a rule help of this kind is welcomed by the Guardians, and always enjoyed by the inmates. More frequent visits from friends might be permitted, and the well-conducted inmates might be allowed out for some hours on every fine day, instead of once or twice a month, when the unwonted freedom sometimes leads them into trouble. Some kind of easy work, under the Brabazon Employ.
ment Scheme, such as making Smyrna mats, wool-work, netting, etc., might be given to any of the inmates who are too old to be put to a regular task. The deadly monotony of workhouse life could be lightened by the ample provision of games, such as draughts, chess, dominoes, cards, etc., and the innates ought to be allowed to sit round the tables or the fires, instead of, as in too many instances, being confined to one particular place on the settle round the room. The pauper uniform should be abolished for both men and women. Tobacco and snuff should always be given to those who want them, as well as dry tea, so that the old women might make a cup for themselves in the afternoon. There is also no valid reason why friends should be prohibited from giving little presents of food, not included in the dietary, from time to time. Proper accommodation, as the law directs, should be made so that all old married couples, desiring it, may live together.
Greater variety might be made in the dietary without any additional expense. Under the General Order of the roth October, 1900, a more elastic dietary has been authorized, but many Boards still adhere to the old wasteful practice of serving out a fixed quantity of bread or other food, regardless of the appetite of the inmate. The food supplied varies considerably in quality as well as quantity, and, though it is becoming more customary for the bread to be made in a bakery in the workhouse, the bulk of the articles is supplied by tradesmen who have entered into contracts with the Guardians.
Contracts and Inspection. This contract system is thoroughly bad. It may save the Guardians trouble, but it is extravagant, and leaves many loopholes for corruption and fraud. If the comparison of the articles supplied with the standard fixed in the contract is not properly made, and prices and quantities are not checked, the inmates suffer and the ratepayers are defrauded; but the official pockets his commission and the tradesman banks his extra profit. The Guardians ought to avoid the contractor wherever possible, by purchasing the various articles of food through a buyer of their own, who could go to the wholesale dealers and the markets, and thus save the profits of the middleman. The material for the clothes should be bought in the same way and made up in the workhouse by the female inmates. The bootmaking might also be done inside the house. Thus, at one and the same time, the paupers would be saved from bad food and shoddy clothes, and 'would have useful, instead of useless, employment; and the ratepayers' pockets would be protected. If the contractor be not abolished, at least every precaution should be taken to prevent fraud by having a regular comparison of the articles supplied with the samples annexed to the tenders, and by making the contracts run for short periods. A recent independent valuation of the goods supplied to one large Union under contract, showed that the prices charged were never less than double, and were sometimes as much as eight times their actual market value.
Government Inspection. I am convinced that the only way of ensuring the humanizing of the work house is the organization of proper inspection and supervision. The Master and Matron are almost always chosen from amongst men and women who have been bred in the atmosphere of Poor Law administration, e.g., Relieving Officers. Indeed the system of hereditary succession often prevails as in the case of the French executioner under the old régime. It is by no means an uncommon thing, therefore, to find them devoid of sympathy for, and constitutionally prejudiced against, paupers. The Guardians Visiting Committee has regular days and fixed hours for its inspection, which is consequently quite inefficient. A casual perusal of Articles 148 and 149 of the General Order would, however, lead one to suppose that, even without surprise visits, no irregularity could possibly fail to be detected. The Committee has to examine the workhouse and all
the stores, inspect the reports of the Chaplain and Medical Officer, afford opportunities for the inmates to make any complaints and at once investigate them. A series of questions has to be answered in writing, and the book containing the answers is submitted to the Board at its ordinary meetings. These questions refer to the general state of the workhouse, the cleanliness and ventilation of the wards, the condition of the beds and bedding, the supply of clean and sufficient clothes, the proper classification and employment of the inmates, the instruction and training of the children, the attendance of the Medical Officer and the efficiency of the Nurses, and the dietary and proper serving of meals, etc. Casual visits of individual Guardians are often resented, and cannot, I believe, be insisted upon against the desire of the Board and the workhouse officers. No ratepayer, even, can visit the workhouse as of right. There is a staff of fourteen official inspectors, appointed by the Local Government Board, viz., one for the Metropolis and thirteen for the rest of England and Wales. It is obvious that they cannot be relied upon to make any very thorough investigation. The number of inspectors should be largely increased, and they should be of both sexes. Provision should also be made for holding independent enquiries into irregularities which have been brought to light by the official inspection of the work house. At present it is customary for the inspector to hold the enquiry in cases in which his own conduct as an inspector may be brought into question.
Women as Guardians. There is abundant evidence to show that the election of women as Guardians has been the cause of a complete revolution in many workhouses, especially in the clothing of the inmates, the preparation and serving of the food, and many other points of domestic detail, which are outside the scope of the male imagination or are considered by the male intellect too trivial for attention. There are, besides, a host of things, both in the male and female wards, which women alone can inquire into and remedy. The use of footless socks and stockings in the Strand Union Workhouse would have remained undiscovered to