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expenditure on boarded-out pauper lunatics. We expressed the opinion that while the parish council are entitled to recover from the district board of control half the initial cost (which includes the cost of medicines, etc.) of pauper lunatics boarded in private dwellings, they are under no legal obligation to account to the district board of control for any part of the medical relief grant.
Poor Law Arbitrations. During the year we issued 45 determinations in cases of disputed settlement submitted to us by parish councils, in terms of Section 2 of the Poor Law (Scotland) Act, 1898, and in questions of poor law administration generally. In addition, at the request of the education authorities involved, we acted as arbiters in two cases-one under the Education of Blind and Deaf Mute Children Act, 1890, and the other under the Blind Persons Act, 1920, in which questions of poor law settlement or procedure were in dispute between certain education authorities. The rubrics of these cases are printed in Appendix XXIII. Space has not been found for the printing of full reports, but the parish council cases, with the exception of one or two of no general interest, have been regularly reported in the Poor Law Magazine.
Poorhouse Inmates. Detailed particulars of the inmates in each poorhouse during the half-year to 30th June, 1923, are given in Appendix XIX., together with the totals for Scotland for the half-year to 31st December, 1922.
The following table shows the total existiny poorhouse accommodation and the number of sane poor receiving relief in poorhouses at the several dates specified, during the last ten years
* Decrease in number of inmates is due to the fact that several poorhouses were taken over by the inilitary authorities.
Poorhouse Average Weckly Cost. The tables in Appendices XX. and XXI. show for the year ended 15th May, 1923, the average weekly cost per head of inmates in the
ordinary and lunatic wards of poorhouses in respect of maintenance (food, clothing, fuel, light, etc.), management, upkeep of house, medical relief and debt charges. These costs were based upon the average nightly number of inmates who slept in the house.
Complaints against Poorhouse Medical Officers. During the year we had occasion to consider two complaints against poorhouse medical officers. In one case it was brought to our notice that three infants born in the poorhouse within a period of a few months had suffered from ophthalmia neonatorum, with subsequent loss or impairment of vision. We took a very serious view of the matter, especially as the disoase is preventable, and we appointed a Commissioner in terms of Section 11 of the Poor Law (Scotland) Act, 1845, who made special inquiry, and who reported that in his opinion the medical officer had failed in his duty in respect that (1) in the first two cases he did not notify the occurrence of ophthalmia neonatorum to the medical officer of health, and that in these two cases he left the responsibility for treatment without giving effective supervision to nurses who had no special qualifications; and that (2) in the third case he failed to take precautions against post-natal infection although he knew that the mother was suffering from venereal disease, and that when ophthalmia neonatorum had occurred he did not take immediate steps to have the child removed to hospital. On consideration of the Commissioner's report and of the evidence led at the inquiry, we felt it our duty to censure severely the medical officer concerned.
The complaint against the other medical officer was less serious, and after investigation by one of our medical staff we did not consider it necessary to take any disciplinary action.
Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow. (i.) Mental Observation Wards; (ii.) Medical Staffing Arrangements.
Developments at Stobhill Hospital (Glasgow) deserve special notice. For about 20 years Glasgow Parish Council have had mental observation wards at their Eastern District Hospital, and encouraged by the success of these wards they have set apart two blocks at Stobhill Hospital, with accommodation for about 120 patients, for an extension of this branch of their medical service. This will enable mental of servation to be carried out on a larger scale than has hitherto been found possible, and the arrangement has our cordial approval and that of the General Board of Control. The usefulness of such wards has been established beyond doubt. By enabling the appropriate treatment to be given at an early stage of slight mental disturbance, these wards are instrumental in preventing the mental condition of many of the patients from deteriorating to the stage when certification under the Lunacy Acts and removal to an asylum becomes e-sential.
Another important development at Stobhill Hospital is the appointment of eight visiting specialists or consultants, who will be available to advise the resident medical staff where specialist skill is necessary. The appointments made are as follows:-consulting physician, consulting surgeon, maternity specialist, specialist for children's diseases, eye specialist, consultant for mental observation cases, ear, throat and nose specialist, and skin diseases specialist. The policy of the Parish Council in endeavcuring, so far as is practicable, to achieve a standard for Stobhill Hospital equal to that of the best general hospital is one of which we entirely approve.
Competency of House Commiltee installing Wireless Receiving Set
in Poorhouse. We were asked by a house committee whether it would be competent for thern to provide out of the rates a wireless receiving set for the entertainment of the inmates of the poorhouse. We replied that, in our opinion, such expenditure would not be a competent charge against the rates.
Prevention and Relief of Distress.
RELIEF OF DISTRESS DUE TO UNEMPLOYMENT.
ADMINISTRATION OF RELIEF. In industrial areas the burden on parish councils, both in costs and numbers, has proved to be no less heavy than in 1922. There are welcome signs of a slight improvement in employment, but parish councils are still faced with a serious problem, and the accumulated liabilities of some of these have now become so considerable that many years must elapse before their financial position can be restored to the normal.
We are again able to report that, in general, the administration of unemployment relief has been conducted with care and discrimination. As was to be expected, the experience of the previous two years had enabled parish councils to become familiar with the problems attending the granting of relief of this nature and to develop a uniform and settled procedure in administration.
Only in a few instances did we find it necessary to call the attention of parish councils to action on their part which seemed to us ill-advised or irregular. Some examples are subjoined :
(a) We had to impress on several parish councils the importance of frequent visitation of the homes of able bodied applicants for relief. As experience has shown, there are applicants whose statements cannot be depended on, and others who, while not making false statements, are quite prepared to withhold information that might influence the amount or the nature of the relief offered to thein. We think it essential, therefore, that parish councils should so adjust and, if necessary, augment their staff that full investigation and frequent visitation may be undertaken.
(6) We have again had occasion to emphasise the necessity of taking proceedings against persons who had wilfully defrauded the parish council. We consider that a clear duty lies on parish councils, as bodies responsible for the proper expenditure of public funds, to take such action as will tend to deter other possible offenders.
(c) In one instance it came to our notice that a parish council had refused to grant relief to the destitute able-bodied unemployed on the ground that the parish had not been certified by the Ministry
of Labour to be a "distressed area," in respect that the number of unemployed workpeople did not attain the required percentage which would entitle the local authority to claim a grant from State funds towards the cost of any relief works that might be undertaken by thein. We pointed out to the council their duties under the Poor Law Emergency Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1921, and reminded them that they must deal with every application on its merits.
Scales of Relief. The scales of relief paid to the destitute able-bodied unemployed in the industrial parishes have shown little variation during the year. In October, 1923, we asked for returns from 65 industrial parishes as to (1) the scale of relief being paid, and (2) the weekly rates of wages earned by unskilled labourers in the various industries in each parish. The returns showed that whereas a number of the smaller (semirural) parishes had found it necessary or advisable to pay relief at a reduced rate, the majority of the larger industrial parish councils continued to pay relief in accordance with the scale that was adopted at the conference held in September, 1921.
It is apparent from a scrutiny of the information available that the allowances paid in accordance with the scale of September, 1921, to a family consisting of (say) a man, wife and four children are on the whole little less than, and indeed in some districts exceed, the wages being earned by the independent unskilled labourer in fulltime employment. This is observable specially in areas where shipbuilding and engineering are predominating industries.
Relief to Persons certified as fit for light Work. Enquiries were addressed to us during the year whether men certified by the parish medical officer to be fit for light work should be relieved under the Poor Law Act 1845, or under the Poor Law Emergency Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1921. The persons referred to were mainly men who were tramping the country in search of work and who, becoming foot-sore, were compelled to seek temporary assistance from the parish council. This enquiry involved the further question of whether the parish council grauting relief would be entitled to claim its expenditure from the parish of settlement. We replied that we were unable to give a binding decision which would determine the question of recourse against the parish of settlement. We suggested, however, that the parish council should in each instance consider whether the applicant would have been relieved prior to the passing of the Poor Law Emergency Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1921. If so, it seemed clear that he ought to be regarded as non-able-bodied, and should be relieved under the 1845 Act. The purpose of the 1921 Act was to extend the powers of parish councils, and it is not intended that relief which could competently be given under the 1845 Act should be otherwise regarded. In dealing with cases such as those mentioned, parish councils should, generally speaking, be guided by the certification of the medical officer.
LOCAL AUTHORITIES (EMERGENCY PROVISIONS) ACT, 1923.
In view of the state of unemployment at the beginning of the year, it was evident that provision for the relief of the destitute ablebodied would require to be continued after the 15th May, 1923, the date when the Poor Law Emergency Provisions Act, 1921, was due to expire. Accordingly, Section 3 of the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1923, which received Royal Assent on 17th May, provided that the 1921 Act should continue in force for a further period of one year, i.e., until 15th May, 1924.
Some modifications which had become necessary for the better administration of relief were embodied in the new Act (Section 3). These were as follows:
(i.) Contributions by Parish Councils towards the Cost of Relief Works.-In our last Report we referred to the proposal that parish councils should be empowered to make arrangements with other local authorities for the provision of work for destitute able-bodied persons applying for parochial relief, and where such an arrangement was made to pay over to the local authorities the amount which would otherwise have been expended on the relief of the applicants. Section 3 of the Act conferred this power, but limited it to work of public utility instituted for the relief of distress due to unemployment and to cases where the work was carried out by means of labour employed directly by the local authority (i.e., the work must not be let to a contractor).
The amount which the parish council may contribute to the local authority in respect of every individual so afforded employment is within the discretion of the council, but is not to exceed the aliment that would have been granted in the particular case. We have advised that it would not, for example, be competent for the council to make a lump sum payment to the local authority in respect of the whole, or of a group, of the men so afforded employment.
The foregoing arrangements may be applied, with the necessary modifications, to parish councils where they themselves institute schemes of public utility.
(ii.) Borrowing Powers.—Section (3) (6) of the 1923 Act secured to parish councils further facilities for meeting their heavy expenditure on the relief of the unemployed by providing an extended period for the repayment of loans. Formerly parish councils, with our consent, could borrow for periods not exceeding 5 years, and, in exceptional cases, up to 10 years. Under the above Section the corresponding periods for repayment may be extended to 10 and 15 years respectively.
(iii.) Settlement.—By Section 3 (c) relief to the able-bodied unemployed now comes within the ordinary poor law provision, so far as the acquisition of a settlement is concerned. As regards the retention of a settlement, however, the position is not quite the same as where a person is in receipt of ordinary relief under the Act of 1845, in respect that such relief can be recovered from the parish of settlement, and this recovery, with the consequent placing of the recipient's name on the Roll of Poor of the parish of settlement, bas the effect of interrupting the loss of a residential settlement. In the case of able-bodied relief, the fact that there is still no such right of recovery from the parish of settlement leads obviously to different results.