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great deal more likely to be given than when it means merely the reduction of his parent's cost to the parish. At present we deliberately dry up and starve the higher feelings of the poor.
Some persons will be frightened at the cost of providing any widespread system of aged pensions. It must, however, be remembered that the proposal involves really no new expense to the community. The aged poor are in any case maintained at the cost of the able-bodied workers; and the substitution of pensions for Poor Law relief is merely & readjustment. It may be assumed that in the United Kingdom to-day there would be about 1,700,000 persons over sixty-five. Of these probably 150,000 already receive public pensions of one kind or another, and about 325,000 are in receipt of Poor Law relief, costing on an average £10 10s. 10 d. each annually.* What proportion of the others would be eligible for and would apply for a pension it is impossible to predict. If the pension of £10 per head were made universal the extra cost involved would be covered by less than a quarter of the yield of a re-assessment of the present (nominal) four shillings in the pound Land Tax.
If the pension were made payable at seventy years of age, only 24 per cent. of the population would be alive to claim it, or just a million for the United Kingdom, of whom probably 250,000 are already paupers, and perhaps 100,000 public pensioners. The extra charge involved would, in this case, not exceed threepence in the pound on the Income Tax.
But a beginning might be made by sanctioning a certain number of pensions every year, within a fixed limit, the number being gradually increased so as to absorb more and more of those who would otherwise end their days as paupers. It must never be forgotten that the object of the pension system is not only the comfort of the individual pensioner, but also the stoppage of the degradation and demoralisation of the existing pauper class. The main object is to avail ourselves of the salutary aspect of individual responsibility by removing the present hopelessness. We must put some water into the pump in order to make it draw.
IV.-EFFICIENT EDUCATION FOR THE CAILDREN.
As the State undertakes to fulfil all the duties of parentage to over 50,000 children (this is the average number of indoor pauper children: 32,000 of them are actually orphans), † and prevents, moreover, any interference by their relatives in the matter, it is clear that the State is bound, as a matter both of morality and public policy, to ensure that these duties are fulfilled in the
best possible manner. The Government should, at any rate, set, as a parent, a good and not a bad example.
* Local Government Board Report, p. lxxix. C—5813.
+ P. 279 of 0-5818.
The grim principle of the 1834 Commissioners, that the pauper's “situation, on the whole, shall not be made really or apparently so eligible as the situation of the laborer of the lowest class,” cannot, even by the blindest devotee of the now discredited laisser-faire principle which so misled the able authors of that remarkable report, be held to apply to orphan children whilst the situation of the children of the lowest laborer remains below the level of nurture and education at which they can be prepared for the struggle of life. To manufacture paupers wholesale inside the workhouse, merely because individual parents are doing so outside, has proved too stupid even for the scientific Poor Law pedant; and à vast improvement has taken place in the care of indoor pauper children,
Boarding out is still restricted, both by its limitation to orphan or deserted children, and by the difficulty of securing efficient supervision; but 3,778 were boarded out on July 1, 1888,* and, in the great majority of cases, were found to be well cared for.
The facilities for boarding out and emigration, now confined by the order of the Local Government Board to orphans and deserted children, might well be extended to other pauper child
It is even suggested by experienced Poor Law workers that the children of permanent indoor paupers might equally be boarded out, just as they are now sent away to the Poor Law School. The others, instead of being herded together in pauper barracks, or crowded in gigantic ophthalmic workhouse schools, as they are in all but a few exceptional institutions, need, if they cannot be boarded out, to be allotted in comparatively small parties in “cottage homes," to the care of "house-mothers.” They should be kept free from any pauper taint; sent if possible to mix with other children in good public elementary schools ; and carefully taught some trade or useful occupation, by which they can fulfil the duties of good citizenship, incumbent on them as on others. The apprenticeship of pauper children to unskilled trades, or the placing of them out as errand-boys or farm-laborers, ought to be definitely abandoned.
Their elementary education requires, too, considerable improvement. 16,216 children were in Metropolitan workhouse schools in 1886-7. Out of these only 359 were in Standard VI. (only 221 of these passed). The Poor Law inspectors are always deploring the inferiority of the Poor Law Schools.
It does not seem too much to ask that every child to which the State assumes the duties of parentage should be given, up to fourteen, the best elementary education possible, followed by apprenticeship to some highly skilled trade, so as to ensure that every workhouse child shall become a skilled instead of an, economically speaking, « unskilled " recruit in the labor market.
* P. 279 of C-5813.
V.-COLLECTIVE PROVISION FOR THE SICK. Few persons realise how rapidly we are "municipalising” our hospitals. The workhouse infirmary is coming to be more and more accepted as the proper home of the wage-earners who are seriously ill. In London, where our magnificent voluntary hospitals, 78 in number, provide about 6,415 occupied beds, the 27 Poor Law infirmaries and sick asylums" have 9,639, and the eight hospitals of the Metropolitan Asylums Board 1820, a total of 11,459. Nearly two-thirds of our Metropolitan hospital accommodation is therefore now provided from public funds.
Nothing could be more advantageous from the public point of view than that every case of serious illness should be treated in hospital. It is to the public interest that the worker should as quickly as possible recover his health and strength, with the least possible privation to his family. The great advance in medical treatment during recent years has been in nursing and in antiseptic treatment, neither of which is possible in a crowded home. The isolation of infectious disease is an obvious public gain. But when 80 per cent. of our households are those of manual wage-earners when in our great cities 30 to 40 per cent. herd in single rooms, and as many more in two or three room-tenements, neither isolation nor proper nursing are possible in the home. The treatment of the sick must necessarily become more and more a matter of collective provision; and it is fortunate that the subjective demoralisation which we have done our best to attach to it by making (in London) two-thirds of the inmates technically paupers, is dying away before the common sense of the doctors and the patients. It was stated to the House of Lords' Committee that, “in consequence of the excellence of the treatment in these infirmaries, and their separation from the workhouse, the poor are so ready to resort to them that there is a tendency to regard them as a kind of State hospital,' entrance to which does not imply that the patient is a pauper.'
This excellent discrimination seems so horrible to the Birmingham Guardians that “they have 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 sapient instance of the deliberate "pauperisation " of those free from this taint is characteristic of far too much of the existing Poor Law administration. We are often so intent on reducing the cost of the collective provision for our poorer brethren that we even prefer to make that provision as demoralising to them as we possibly can, on the chance that we may thereby exclude (to their detriment and occasional starvation) some of the more dignified among them.
* Report of House of Lords' Committee on Poor Law Relief, H.L. 363, 1888,
As regards medical aid, however, public opinion is now running too strongly to be resisted. By sec. 7 of the Diseases Prevention (Metropolis) Act, 1883, treatment in the magnificent public Hospitals of the Metropolitan Asylums Board is not deemed “parochial relief.” In 1884 Parliainent provided that the receipt merely of medical relief should not disqualify a man for exercising the franchise. In the next Parliamentary Registration Bill, a clause will inevitably be carried, which few members of Parliament will dare even to resist, defining “medical relief” to include treatment in a Poor Law Infirmary or Sick Asylum. Why, moreover, should we deprive a man of the rights of citizenship because he has had the misfortune to have his wife or child compulsorily removed from his care as dangerously insane, and remitted to a public lunatic asylum ?*
The existing distinction between the voluntary and the rate-supported hospital cannot possibly be maintained; and it may be hoped that some order will soon be introduced into the barbaric chaos of London hospital administration. What appears to be wanted is the complete separation of medical and hospital relief from the Poor Law system. In large cities the provision for the sick needs classification according to the kind of disease, rather than according to the haphazard distinction of how each particular institution is maintained or administered. We require in London an elected Hospitals Board, managing all public provision for the sick and the insane, and auditing, supervising and controlling all "voluntary" hospitals. Such a Board would relieve the London County Council of its burdensome care of lunatic asylums, and take over the hospitals of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. In other counties it would probably be found sufficient to give similar powers of hospital management and control to the existing “Asylums Committee” of the County Council, thus removing all provision for the sick from any contact with Poor Law Administration.
VI. -PUBLIC BURIAL OF THE DEAD. It is part of the imperfection of the existing Poor Law statistics that none exist as to the number of pauper funerals. The proportion of these to the total deaths must, however, be very large. Many persons are buried by the parish who were not in receipt of relief when alive. If 13 per cent. of the deaths in London are those of persons actually in the workhouse or Poor Law infirmary; if over 22 per cent. die in some public institution or another; if in the rural districts 30 to 40 per cent. of the deaths of persons over sixty are those of paupers; if 10 per
cent. of the population obtain relief during any one year, and 20 per cent. of those over sixty-five are permanent paupers; it is probable that at least one-third of our funerals are already paid for from Poor Law funds.
To be “ buried by the parish " is felt by the poor to be a disgrace and a dishonor to a greater extent that can easily be realised. The aged laborer, who will rely without shame on the parish doctor, use
* Nor is there any valid ground for depriving any other pauper of the rights of citizenship. (See Fabian Tract No. 14, #The New Reform Bilī," clause 3.)
without disgrace the Poor Law dispensary or infirmary, and accept without dishonor the bitter bread of out-door relief, revolts against the pauper funeral, and starves himself to hoard the sum necessary to avoid this last humiliation. Yet so hard and so demoralising are the conditions of life of the great mass of the population, that it seems probable that at least one-third of them fail to maintain even this “final rally on the narrow ledge" of dignity and self-respect, and are eventually carried down to a pauper's grave.
There is, of course, nothing necessarily degrading in a public funeral. In the case of a soldier, a sailor, or a member of a religious order, the collective provision for burial is accepted as a matter of course. It is merely that we have deliberately chosen to make this particular form of public funeral—the lot of one-third of our brethren
-an additional anxiety during their lives, a source of bitterness during their last moments, and a stain of disgrace to their relations. We have failed in our effort to abolish the public funeral, and have succeeded merely in making it one more pang to the dying, and one more engine of demoralisation to the living. Has not the time come for depauperising our parish funerals? We do not even take the trouble to make the burden easy to the poor. We charge unnecessary and irksome fees for the mere privilege of burial; we permit, in some cases, an absentee rector to levy a toll on all burials from his district, wherever and by whomsoever performed; we allow the provision of cemeteries to become, in many places, a matter of private speculation, and a source of unnecessary individual gain; and we leave the sorrowing household to bargain with a tradesman for the means of performing what is essentially a public duty. There seems no reason why the collective organisation of the people should not be utilised to minimise the trouble and expense of the burial of the dead.
In Paris the whole of the cemeteries are public property, and the funerals are conducted by what is virtually a public organisation. The one"undertaker”is the Company of “Pompes funèbres,"chartered and subsidised by the municipality, and under its supervision and control. Funerals are provided according to a definite scale of charges, varying from nothing to the highest amount demanded by Parisian taste. It does not seem an impossible dream that we might one day “municipalise" our undertakers, expanding the existing Burial Boards" into a complete municipal department for interments, the minimum charge being fixed low enough to enable even the very poorest to enjoy the luxury of paying something for the last offices to the loved dead.
But we shall one day go a step further. The expenses of burial must necessarily be shared among the living; and Death knocks at the door of every household, on an average, once in ten years. Why should we add to the trouble and economic disturbance necessarily incident to death by levying a toll on burial? The disposal of the dead is a matter of common concern; the fulfilment of this public duty presses crushing: ly on the poor in their hour of greatest need; "communism in funerals is not likely to lead to reckless increase in the demand for graves; and any simplification of the expenses now incurred would be a great boon.