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The practice of forming Vagrancy Committees to cover wide areas has much to commend it, for the nomadic character of the casual pauper stands in the way of any adequate treatment of the problem of vagrancy by Unions acting in isolation. Moreover, as the distribution of the casual population is patchy and haphazard, equity calls for some measure of financial give and take" amongst the richer and poorer Unions of a district and only when some such form of centralization exists can the practice of closing casual wards be placed upon an equitable footing.
Again, it is a clear advantage to have a body of men gathered together at definite intervals to consider a problem like this, which has little attraction for the average Guardian. General interest is stirred, and statistics on a modest scale are collected. Not least of the beneficial effect of these meetings is the interest now being taken in the special subject of child vagrancy, information in regard to which is gradually being compiled. Thus, it has become possible to trace the wanderings of certain definite families of casuals as they travel from County to County, and the Staffordshire Committee has been so far impressed with the magnitude of the evil as to establish a scheme for taking child vagrants off the road whenever possible, and for educating them at the expense of the General Fund. On similar lines is a further scheme for persuading aged and infirm vagrants to leave the road and settle in some Poor Law Institution. It is to be hoped that the other two Committees may find themselves in a position to take similar action in due course.
It is curiously difficult, however, to persuade some Boards of Guardians, especially in a rural County, of the virtues of co-operation in any form; and the activities of Vagrancy Committees of a voluntary kind are seriously crippled by the suspicious or self-interested attitude of many Boards.
Sanction has been obtained to the closing of the following casual wards in recent times:-Birkenhead, Dore, Cleobury Mortimer, Stone, Tarvin, Lichfield, Seisdon, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Walsall. An application from the Madeley Union is pending, and it is probable that one or two more little-frequented wards might similarly be closed with advantage to administration. As, however, closure in such cases is apt to give rise to fancied grievances amongst neighbouring Unions, Vagrancy Committees might well consider the possibility of mapping out the more frequented routes, so that, with the distribution of open wards on a more systematic basis, the reasons for closure may be more generally appreciated.
It is certain that sickness or infirmity amongst casuals is commoner than is generally believed, yet from returns to Vagrancy Committees, and other evidence, it would appear that in some Unions cases of admission of casuals into the sick wards are strangely infrequent. Both Chester and Wolverhampton Boards of Guardians at different times have complained to their respective Vagrancy Committees of the unfair burden resting upon them in the matter of dealing with sick casuals. And at a recent meeting of the Shropshire Vagrancy Committee, it was stated that the great bulk of the work of dealing with sick casuals was confined to two Unions, whose practice of admitting them to the sick wards, it is curious to note, was strongly criticized at the same meeting by one of the rural Boards.
As regards institutional accommodation, although, as previously pointed out, the times have been difficult, signs of progress have not been entirely lacking in the past year or two.
Thus, the West Bromwich Board of Guardians have continued to develop their elaborate, if costly, scheme of improvements, which has already given the Poor Law Infirmary of the Union an entirely fresh status among the infirmaries of the Midlands, and in due course should open out to it a vastly wider career of usefulness than was possible in the past.
At Stoke-upon-Trent, radical improvement schemes, principally of an engineering description, have been carried out at both Turnhurst Road and the London Road Institutions; and more recently, in consequence of the congestion of the latter Institution, and the growing popularity of its Infirmary (at which all acute work is now being centralized) the Guardians have been advised as to the necessity of erecting an entirely new Infirmary on modern lines.
The Wirral Guardians, in continuance of their improvement scheme, have proceeded to the erection of a further infirmary block capable of accommodating about 90 patients, and are proceeding with other extensive improvements of an engineering description.
The Bucklow Guardians have erected a Nurses' Home.
The Walsall and Wolverhampton Guardians have added most useful verandahs and balconies to certain wards of their respective Infirmaries, and the former Board, as part of a more extensive scheme of improvement, are considering plans for the erection of a much needed Nurses' Home.
The Chester Guardians, who had re-opened their Infirmary after the termination of the War on greatly improved lines, besides having to consider the question of increasing their accommodation for nurses, are faced with the necessity of providing further institutional facilities to meet the growing needs of the sick population of the Union. They have also erected a fine new laundry.
The Atcham Board of Guardians, after an interval of some years during which their Berrington Institution (other than the casual wards) had remained unoccupied, have now, after extensive reconditioning work, turned part of the premises into a modern Hospital of about 120 beds, so formed and equipped as to form an important centre for the treatment of disease in the County of Salop.
The Walsall and West Bromwich Unions Joint Committee have lately carried out extensive additions to their Mental Deficiency Colony at Great Barr, and have also opened a block for ailing children containing about 40 beds, together with a small isolation block, on the same estate.
The Macclesfield Guardians have under consideration plans for the alteration and extension of various parts of their Institution, including the infirmary, which has become congested.
A new laundry is being erected at the Stockport Poor Law Institution.
Within the past three years Birkenhead and Cannock Guardians have both opened additional cottage homes for children, whilst the Oswestry Guardians have established a modern laundry, and have carried out other valuable improvements to their Institution.
W. P. ELIAS.
REPORT of Mr. W. J. T. TURTON, O.B.E., on District 10, covering 47 Unions in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and Rutland.
I beg to submit my report on the administration of relief in this district for the year ended 31st March, 1927.
Closed Institutions.-The Uppingham Institution has been closed and sold, the inmates being accommodated in the neighbouring Institution at Oakham without apparent inconvenience to the poor transferred. The Hinckley Union have closed and disposed of their children's home. The Bakewell Guardians have also discontinued their children's home.
Coal Dispute. The number of miners normally employed 12 months ago in the three coal-fields in the district was approximately 131,500. Large numbers of miners live in the Unions of Mansfield, Basford, Worksop, Nottingham, and Chesterfield; an appreciable number in the Unions of Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Belper, and some in Southwell, East Retford, Shardlow, Market Bosworth, and Loughborough.
In the above twelve Unions during the dispute the dependants of approximately 47,579 miners, and 723 single and 2,113 married miners themselves, were relieved at a cost of £574,300.
The number of miners whose dependants were relieved in the Unions most concerned were Mansfield (13,136), Basford (10,673), Chesterfield (8,536), Worksop (4,987), Nottingham (4,783), Ashby-de-la-Zouch (2,595), Belper (1,646). Of the miners relieved contrary to the Merthyr Tydfil judgment, 29 were relieved for one week only, in the East Retford Union, but in the Worksop Union there was a substantial number; elsewhere relief to such men was dependent upon the production of a medical certificate. Of the total number, 2,836, of single and married miners relieved, 2,335 were within the Worksop Union.
In seven of the twelve Unions mentioned all relief was in kind. In three, onehalf was in money, and in two a small amount of relief in money was given only where there was no other income. With a temporary exception in two Unions in the early days of the dispute the maximum rate of relief suggested in Circular 703, for the dependants of miners, was not exceeded. In three Unions the maximum rate was maintained, but other Unions from time to time adopted lower rates.
Relief, with the exception of the small amount given in the Shardlow Union, was given on loan.
Where deemed desirable, orders for admission to the Institution were offered, but seldom accepted. In two Unions where some able-bodied miners were admitted, their stay was of quite short duration.
As regards relief granted on loan, it is not yet possible to give a definite opinion as to the amount that will be repaid, but repayment apparently will take some considerable time and cause a great amount of work in collection.
During the dispute I had no evidence that the children suffered from malnutrition, but rather on the contrary I had reason to believe that not only did the children not suffer in this respect, but in some districts, at any rate, it was noticeable how well they were.
Except as regards the cost of coal, the dispute did not so far as I know appreciably affect supplies to the Poor Law Institutions.
Even making allowance for the difference in the duration of the two coal disputes in 1921 and 1926, the increase of applications for relief during the latter period is noticeable; for instance, taking the aggregate number of cases in the highest week in each Union, the figures were approximately 10,000 and 38,000.
Out-Relief.-Owing to the prolonged coal dispute in 1926 it is not easy to compare the out-relief figures with previous years, but the upward tendency continues, at any rate in the industrial Unions, as is evidenced by the following table :
COMPARATIVE INCREASE OF OUT-RELIEF CASES.
(Compiled from Weekly Returns and from other Information supplied by Union
In view of the rise of out-relief in industrial Unions during the last few years, it may be asked, is the growth of poverty commensurate with the increase in numbers and cost of out-relief?
Unemployment has been acute (and maybe there has been some increase in population), but it must be borne in mind that there are other forms of public assistance now available in addition to Poor Law relief. Is there on the one hand an increasing readiness to apply for Poor Law relief, and on the other a more elastic definition of "destitution" and the amount considered necessary to relieve the same?
Under the circumstances Guardians would be well advised to keep a constant watch on out-relief administration with a view to seeing whether cases not strictly destitute are being relieved, and whether, whilst relieving destitution in any particular case, avoidable expenditure could be saved. The strict calculation of household income would probably have a marked effect on the out-relief lists.
Able-Bodied. With regard to out-relief to able-bodied men, if the figures of recent years are compared with those of pre-War years there would almost appear to be a tendency for this kind of relief to become stabilized. However, the test of a substantial trade revival would be illuminative.
It is noticeable that, even in agricultural and semi-agricultural Unions, cases of able-bodied men on out-relief are reported (though not in large numbers), a contrast to pre-War days.
In some Unions able-bodied men receive out-relief and perform no task, but in several a task is applied, generally wood sawing and cutting and other work within the precincts of the Institution.
At Grimsby the Guardians acquired vacant factory or warehouse premises, and able-bodied men on out-relief are set to making concrete slabs and breeze bricks, which the Corporation buy.
At Leicester a Distress Committee is in operation. All able-bodied applicants are relieved by the unemployment scheme. The Guardians, after considering the income, allot the number of hours to be worked by the applicant in accordance with the scale laid down. The work is found by the City Council through the Distress Committee, the men being set to particular works in progress, e.g., making tennis courts, laying-out playing pitches for children, cleaning out lakes in parks, road construction, etc.. The average weekly number of cases for the twelve months ending 26th February, 1927, was 333, and the average weekly cost £364. The scheme commenced in September, 1921, and the total cost up to March 19th, 1927, was £137,423 8s. 4d.. On January 7th, 1927, there were 433 men on the scheme actually chargeable. Of these 4 were under 19 years of age, 7 were from 19 to 21 years of age, 97 from 21 to 30, 94 from 30 to 40, 68 from 40 to 50, 76 from 50 to 60, 48 from 60 to 65, and 39 over 65. The approximate length of time on the scheme may be of interest. Under
6 months 110 men, 6 months to under 12 months 101, 12 months to under 18 months 72, 18 months to under 2 years 25, 2 years to under 3 years 43, 3 years to under 4 years 29, over 4 years and under 5 years 37, and since the commencement of the scheme 16.
From these figures it would seem that there is a risk, if not a certainty, that the scheme, which no doubt was originally intended to provide temporary assistance, has come to be regarded by some of the men as permanent employment, rather than as task work.
Regular revision, visiting, and strict calculation of income seem worthy of consideration.
Children.-Some children over three years of age are to be found in some of the smaller Institutions. There is some shortage of Guardians' homes, especially in Lincolnshire, to accommodate children of the "in and out" class.
Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act.-The immediate effect on out-relief of this Act was appreciable, but, generally speaking, as regards industrial Unions, the drop has been practically negatived by a subsequent increase of other outrelief cases. For instance, taking approximate figures :
In Derby Union .. 88 cases came off relief, whilst 102 remained partially
chargeable, and the saving to the rates estimated at the rate of £7,325 per annum. The figures are respectively 82, 99 and £8,500. The figures are respectively 88, 88 and £5,479. The figures are respectively 138, 96 and £9,308.
Emigration.-Bearing in mind the pool of unemployment and the annual stream of children leaving school who have to be absorbed into industry, the question of emigration, in my opinion, does not receive the consideration it deserves at the hands of the Guardians.
Poor Law Infirmaries.—Improvements continue both as regards nursing and administration.
Shardlow Union have opened a new Infirmary building, and Leicester a Nurses' Home. At Southwell and Glossop new Infirmary buildings should shortly be ready. Nottingham are considering plans for a childrens' block, and extensions to the Nurses' Home. A new Infirmary is being mooted at Mansfield, and Worksop are considering certain extensions. At Basford the Infirmary has been
re-equipped, some extra bed accommodation, a lecture room, and day rooms provided, as well as additions to the Nurses' Home. Derby have commenced to build a new Infirmary.
The restriction of building during the War, and post-War exigencies, as well as the development in various Unions, no doubt have contributed to the need of expenditure on construction at the present time. As regards the larger Infirmaries, during the winter months the sick accommodation has been severely
There are now in the District four complete Training Schools for nurses (Leicester, Grimsby, Nottingham, and Derby), one affiliated (Chesterfield), and three preliminary schools (Lincoln, Mansfield, and Basford).
Since the General Nursing Council's Examinations commenced until December 31st, 1926, the nurses who passed the preliminary examination numbered 138 (and 28 failed) and 60 passed the final (4 failed).
Some difficulty is experienced in obtaining probationers. This difficulty may to some extent be consequent upon the age at which probationers can be accepted, and the difficulty of bridging the period between the age of leaving school and the age when training can commence.
It is not always easy to secure and retain fully certificated nurses in quiet country Unions, owing partly perhaps to the lack of sufficient cases of nursing interest, and partly to the unattractiveness of country life to certain types of temperament.
Vagrancy. There are three voluntary Vagrancy Committees in the district, the Notts and Derbyshire, the Leicestershire, and the Lincolnshire, Committees. The majority of the Unions belong to the Vagrancy Committees, but a few have not joined.
The Lincolnshire Vagrancy Committee are seeking recognition as a statutory Committee.
Of the 10,610 casuals in receipt of relief in England and Wales on the night of January 28th, 1927, approximately 763 were within this district.
During the year 1926 there were, according to figures supplied by the Institution Masters, 216,350 admissions. This was the highest number in any one year for at least 26 years. As compared with the admissions in 1925, the increases per cent. were :-Derbyshire 10, Nottinghamshire 21, Leicestershire and Rutland 26, Lincolnshire 29, or a district increase of 23.
Both the district and County totals have steadily increased year by year since 1918, with the exception of Leicestershire and Rutland in 1923, when there was a small temporary decrease.
There are no indications at present of any check in the increase.
The provisions of the Casual Poor (Relief) Order, 1925, are not always strictly enforced.
Some Unions have increased, and some are increasing, the casual ward accommodation; others are considering the matter, and some will need to. Unless there be a diminution in the number of tramps, expenditure on the provision of adequate accommodation and supervision seems unavoidable.
Some of the wards are subject to seasonal increases of admissions (e.g., potato picking, etc.).
Leicester appears to be the main tramp centre in the district. During the quarter ending 31st March, 1927, the following were admitted :-4,348 men, 145 women, and 11 children. Of these 2,651 men, 60 women, and 2 children were detained 2 nights. There were transferred to the Infirmary 45 men.
Of the total numbers 262 men and 16 women were over 65 years of age. Sick and infirm under 65 numbered 174 men and 15 women.
The only casual wards at present remaining closed since the War are those of Nottingham, Bingham, Hayfield, and Lutterworth. Applicants at Nottingham are referred to the Basford Union wards, about one mile distant, whilst at the other three Institutions an application for admission would not be refused.
The Belper wards at the close of the year under review were temporarily closed owing to smallpox having occurred in the Poor Law Institution.