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But these are matters which might fairly be left to the electors themselves to insist on. The education of Londoners in public affairs will be not the least important of the advantages of London Municipal Reform.
POOR LAW REFORM. The reform of the Poor Law and its administration is a national rather than a metropolitan question ; but the size of London, the extent of its destitution, the want of order or control in its charities, hospitals, &c., and of system in its municipal life, make reform specially urgent within its boundaries. The administration of the Poor Law is committed in London to 30 BOARDS OF GUARDIANS, acting either for separate parishes (14)
or for “ Unions” (16) of smaller parishes; THE METROPOLITAN ASYLUMS BOARD. The Boards of Guardians are mainly elected by the "ratepayers" (either annually or triennially, in the month of April, according to the particular arrangement in force for each parish) upon a system of plural voting, each elector having from one to six votes according to the rateable value of his house. If, moreover, he is rated for more than one house, whether as a “house-farmer or not, his voting power is further multiplied in proportion to the number of his houses. Under this system it occasionally happens (as in Bethnal Green in April, 1889) that a minority of the large householders prevails over the poorer majority. The elections are conducted carelessly, voting-papers being left at each house by a policeman, and collected next day, without any safeguards against personation or fraud. Very little public interest is aroused; and only a small proportion of the papers are filled up.
Yet the Boards of Guardians have to perform functions which are of the highest importance to the public, especially to the poorer citizens. They are bound by law to grant relief to every destitute applicant; but it rests with them to decide whether to grant door relief,” in money or food; or merely to admit the applicant to the workhouse, the workhouse infirmary (for the sick), or the “stone-yard " (for imposing task-work on able-bodied men). These institutions, as well as the workhouse schools and the " wards” (for poor travellers, officially described as tramps and vagrants), are completely under their control. Justices of the Peace resident in any parish are ex officio members of its Board of Guardians; but they seldom attend. The bulk of the work is in the hands of the paid officials, and the “ Clerk to the Guardians ”– frequently a local solicitor-is often an official pluralist (as in Chelsea) receiving huge emoluments, and practically beyond control.
The Metropolitan Asylums Board is composed of 54 delegates elected by the Boards of Guardians, with 16 members nominated by the Local Government Board. It includes 4 women, and no fewer than 18 Justices of the Peace. It controls and manages the 4 public asylums, 3 “Hospital Ships," 1 Boys' Training Ship, and 6 metro
politan hospitals for infectious disease, the annual cost of which is £303,640, recovered from each parish in proportion to rateable value of its property, and so ultimately swelling the poor-rate.
Each Board of Guardians administers relief and collects its rates independently of the others; but the cost of the maintenance of the poor inside the workhouse infirmaries and schools is defrayed from
“ Common Poor Fund,” and divided among the parishes in proportion to the rateable value of their property. With this exception, there is no “ Equalization of the Poor Rate," which accordingly varies from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 10d. in the £ (see page 14), or even 3s., as lately in Holborn. The unions which benefit by the “ Common Poor Fund," and so would gain by an "Equalization of the Poor Rate," are (in order of amount) Holborn, St. George's in the East, St. Saviour's Southwark, Bethnal Green, St. Pancras, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Poplar, Chelsea, Mile End, Lambeth, St. Olave's, Greenwich, Stepney, Woolwich, Marylebone, St. Giles', Camberwell and Hackney (p. 302 of 0–5526). The amount chargeable to the Fund (the already equalized part of the Poor Rate) has risen from £540,876 in 1871 to £929,300 in 1886. The richer parishes enjoy the advantage of a low poor-rate, at the same time profiting by the cheapness of the labor of the residents in the poor parishes, which are made still poorer by the heavy burden of their own unshared and unaided poor-rate.
Thus the Poor Law needs abundant reform; but the change above all others necessary is in the spirit of its administrators. Instead of a harsh and cruel desire to ir save the rates” at any cost of human suffering, we need a kindly treatment of the sick, the aged, the children, and those reduced to destitution by accident or misfortune; coupled with a scientific and persistent effort temporarily to relieve the able-bodied and permanently to remove the causes of their misery, without in any way relaxing the tests against sturdy idleness or vagrancy. Even as regards these latter evils, the abolition of their causes rather than the punishment of the offenders should constantly be aimed at.
Meanwhile, certain specific reforms are obviously needed :
(a). The children, instead of being herded together in pauper barracks or crowded in gigantic ophthalmic workhouse schools, need to be “boarded out” in families, or allotted in small parties to the
house-mothers.” They should be sent to the ordinary public schools, and trained in some handicraft or useful occupation by which they can fulfil the duties of good citizenship incumbent on them as on others. Sixteen thousand two hundred and sixteen children were in metropolitan workhouse schools in 1886-7. Out of these only 359 were in Standard VI. (only 221 of these “ passed”). The inspector deplores the bad classification of the older workhouses ; the poor and imperfect furniture and appliances provided for educational purposes; the low salaries given, preventing the highest grade of teachers applying for vacant schools ; the want of technical skill and of the ability to impart practical knowledge on the part of industrial trainers; and the narrow view too frequently
taken by boards of guardians and managers of utilizing the industry of the children" (Řeport of Local Government Board, C-5526, pp. 95-97).
Only 3,551 children in all England are “boarded out," about 500 being from London (ibid, pp. 99 and 198).
(6). The aged poor, instead of being imprisoned in "Bastilles," with husband and wife often illegally separated, and always condemned to a grim lingering out of life, must be humanely provided for by pensions or almshouses as they may prefer; and be regarded, not as semi-criminal incumbrances, but as receiving honorably the willingly given pensions to which lives of hardship, toil and want spent in the service of the community have abundantly entitled them.
(c). The sick, the chronically infirm, and the “industrial martyrs of our civilization, suffering from the evergrowing number of accidents, should be treated generously in the public hospitals-no longer to be stigmatized as “ workhouse infirmaries ”—and in convalescent homes and asylums, administered by the Public Hospitals Board hereafter referred to (p. 22).
(d). The “temporarily unemployed " should be recognized as a necessary incident of our present industrial life. " The modern system of industry will not work without some unemployed margin
-some reserve of labor."'* For these it will nearly always be possible to find temporary employment in connection with the large quantity of work of every kind constantly being done by the County Council, Vestries, District Boards, &c., if only there were any real desire to cope with the problem. The Local Government Board has in vain urged local governing bodies to take this course. The Chelsea Vestry † and a few other bodies, have already attempted it with marked success. But in order to enable this to be adequately extended, it is necess
ssary to insist on :-
and becoming direct employers of labor in every branch.
† See Report by J. STRACHAN, Surveyor. FC. Booth, “ Life and Labor in East London " (Williams and Norgate) p. 167.
Law or its administration, making within its courts a working guild under suitable discipline” (ibid, p. 168) and eliminate the idle loafers from society by making their existence in the ordinary community more and more impossible, whilst we on the other hand offer them constantly the alternative of the reforming " Labor Colony", to which all incorrigible vagrants and beggars could be committed by the magistrate for specified terms.
To effect these reforms the administration of the Poor Law must be brought under democratic control : the existing Boards of Guardians and Metropolitan Asylums Board with their electoral anomalies should be swept away, and replaced by an elected Board responsible for the care of the whole of the aged, the sick, insane and destitute of London. As five-twelfths of the Hospital expenditure must inevitably be under its management, it would seem best for this work to be united with that of the control of London's hospitals; and the Hospitals Board (see p. 22) might well become a general“ Charities Board,” formed of elected representatives from each Parliamentary constituency on the existing municipal register, charged with the whole central administration, and assisted by elected district committees for local work. Only by some such system can the existing Metropolitan Asylums Board be adequately replaced; the burdens of the poor-rate equalized; effective democratic control established over the welfare of our sick and poorer brethren ; the County Council relieved of its burdensome care of lunatic asylums; and London's myriad charities, now often hidden, stolen, jobbed and misapplied, rescued, and the public property of the poor made as secure as the private possessions of the rich.
Notwithstanding social obloquy and rigorous treatment, the number of persons driven to seek Poor Law relief is enormous.
3,401 2,393 2,616 11,532 10,636 7,323 1,793 2,274 401 796 43,165 5
508 498 374 3,327 2,986 4,003 502 628 147 128, 13,101 3 4,215,192 274 239 50 1,154 906 1,609 1071 131 42 53 4,565
4,183 3,1 30/3,040 16,013 14.528 12,935 2,402 3.033|590 977 60,831
594 8163,336 8,960 2,097 8,700 1,155 2,640 3,990 16 64 32,3684 75,529 313 3641,871 4,784 1,032 4,076 4111,006|1,383 5 15,245 28,346 129 656 1,165 3,160! 534) 2,126 342 224 363
13,264 1,036 1,836|6,372 16,904 3,663|14,902 1,908|3,870|5,736 21 64 156,312 4 117,139
(Report of Local Government Board, C-5526, pp. 192-202 ) But the relief is not usually given permanently: to obtain the number of different individuals who receive relief during a year, we must multiply the daily number by three (Mr. Mulhall, “ Dictionary of Statistics,” p. 346) or by 31 (“ National Income,” by Dudley Baxter, p. 87). This gives a pauper class seeking relief in London during any one year of about 400,000 persons, or 1 in 11 of the total population : 1 in 9 of the wage-earning class.
LONDON'S HOSPITALS. An energetic attempt is being made to induce the London wageearners to become regular subscribers to the London hospitals. Opportunely enough, a memorandum on the whole of the metropolitan medical charities has just been published by the Charity Organization Society (15, Buckingham Street, Strand), which reveals some of the waste and confusion engendered by our competitive individualism even at the sick-bed.
London's sick are provided for by 11 great hospitals with medical schools ; eight smaller general hospitals; 67 special hospitals (many of these unnecessary); 26 free dispensaries ; 13 part paying dispensaries; 34 provident dispensaries"; 27 workhouse infirmaries and sick asylums; 44 poor-law dispensaries; and eight public hospitals for infectious diseases. These
238 SEPARATE INSTITUTIONS compete with one another for funds, for patients, for doctors, for nurses, and for students. They are distributed geographically over London without the least regard to local necessities, and hardly in any single case is there any co-operation among them. New in