United Kingdom Encyclopedia of Law     Wiki Legal Encyclopedia (BETA)
What do you need to know about law? Search in more than 1.500.000 entries

Children in United Kingdom

Table of Contents

The Children and the 1834 Report

In this issue about the children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: Apart from apprenticeship, the Report deals only incidentally with children. It is assumed throughout that children go with their parents, both with regard to the continuance of outdoor relief to the aged, impotent and sick, and with regard to its abolition in the case of the able-bodied.

On one point the Report is emphatic and clear, namely, that, where children do enter the workhouse, they are to be accommodated in a separate building, under a separate superintendent, in order that they may “be educated” by “a person properly qualified to act as a schoolmaster.”

With regard to apprenticeship, all that the Report is-

(1) Expressly to except relief by way of apprenticeship from its proposal to abolish outdoor relief to the able-bodied parent.

(2) To recommend that the Central Authority should “be empowered to make such regulations” as it might think fit; and subsequently “to make a special inquiry” into the subject.

Children, the Act of 1834 and its Amendments

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: With certain insignificant exceptions hereinafter noticed, the only provisions with regard to children as such in the 1834 Act relate to children in the workhouse. The Central Authority was directed to make rules, etc., “for the education of the children” in the workhouse. It was specially enacted that no child in a workhouse was to be educated in any creed other than that of his parent, or, if orphaned, “to which his godparents may object.” Facilities for free entry of ministers of the child’s own persuasion were to be accorded.

In 1844 the Central Authority was expressly empowered at its discretion to combine parishes (within fifteen miles) into school districts, and to constitute boards for such school districts; and, subject to the consent of a majority of such a board, to direct the establishment of district schools at the cost of the poor rates of the district, up to a maximum of one-fifth of the total Poor Law expenditure of the district.

The Central Authority was empowered to make rules for such schools, it being, however, expressly enacted: [1] that an Anglican chaplain was always to be appointed; (2) that facilities for visits by ministers of other denominations were to be given; and (3) a conscience clause was inserted. Such district schools were to be for the accommodation of pauper children under sixteen, either orphans, deserted, or having parents who consented, including such children from parishes outside the district.

With regard to apprenticeship the law remained at first unchanged, except that the Act of 1834 empowered the Central Authority to make regulations (in significant phrase) “for the apprenticing the children of poor persons” in the execution of the then existing law. This applied, not to those who were destitute or who applied for relief, but to “the children of all such whose parents shall not, by the … churchwardens and overseers, or the greater part of them, be thought able to keep and maintain their children.”

In 1835, the Merchant Shipping Act incidentally authorised local authorities to apprentice boys over thirteen, with their own consent, to the mercantile marine, whatever the distance of the port or address of the shipmaster; to pay a premium of ?5; and to convey the boy to his new master by a constable.

In 1842 the Parish Apprentices Act made it clear that all the previous Acts applied also to cases in which no premium had been paid.

But the first substantive alteration of the law was made in 1844, when the Central Authority was expressly empowered to make regulations prescribing the duties of masters and the other conditions of apprenticeship; the power of apprenticing was confined to the boards of guardians; and the former compulsory obligation on householders to receive apprentices was abolished. The class of children to be apprenticed remained unchanged.

Children and the Poor Law Commissioners

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: The policy of the Central Authority with regard to the relief of children rested on the general rule that children, residing with their parents (or surviving parent) and dependent on them for support, had to follow them for relief. This was not limited by any condition as to the age of the child, the essential fact being the dependence of the child for support. Looked at from the standpoint of the child, this involved a great and complex difference in policy in the two different areas of the country to which we have had so often to refer. In unions governed by the Outdoor Labour Test Order (afterwards the Outdoor Relief Regulation Order, 1852), all such children might be relieved in their homes, the only limitation placed on the discretion of the local authority being that, if they were the children of able-bodied men, at least half the relief granted to the father for their necessities had to be in kind.

In unions in which the Outdoor Relief Prohibitory Order was in force, the children (although not sick) of certain classes of parents might be relieved in their own homes, whilst those of certain other classes of parents could be relieved only by admission to the workhouse (unless, in particular instances, the grant of outdoor relief was specially sanctioned by the Central Authority). This determination by the Central Authority of the method of relief of such children did not depend on their age, their sex, their characteristics, or their needs, but on the artificial categories in which their fathers (or mothers) were placed. We need not follow these intricacies once more in detail. They can easily be unravelled from the foregoing sections on “The Able-bodied” and on “Women.”

Whatever outdoor relief was given to the parent in respect of the child, the policy of the Central Authority was one of absolute non-intervention with regard to its treatment. No directions were given, either for its education or for any other of its needs. The only direction that we find is a decision that the local authority must not pay the school fees for any such child; and must not even add with this view 2d. per week per child to the outdoor relief granted to the parent.

When the child entered the workhouse it passed out of its former classification and entered into an entirely different one. For outdoor relief, as we have seen, the policy of the Central Authority was to distinguish among children only according to the kind of parents they had. Inside the workhouse, the policy of the Central Authority was to regard this classification as irrelevant, and to place all children, of whatever parentage, in categories, dependent on their own age, sex and health. They were either sick or well; and also either [1] Children under seven; (2) Boys between seven and fifteen; or (3) Girls between seven and fifteen. The treatment of these categories is so inextricably mixed up with that of the other inmates of the workhouse that we relegate the matter to our subsequent sections.

The Central Authority gave no direction to change the system under which some local authorities sent their pauper children to establishments kept for private profit. In 1838, this system was implicitly sanctioned by a long instructional letter, dealing with “Mr. Aubin’s establishment for pauper children at Norwood,” where the children were employed in the workshop on alternate days, and were under the special care of a chaplain.

But the Central Authority was evidently uneasy about the quarter of a million pauper children, of whom it was gradually getting some tens of thousands in the great general workhouses on which it had insisted. Reports on the training of the workhouse children were called for, and a valuable series was published in 1841, in which the establishment of separate boarding schools was suggested, where the children could receive both elementary schooling and industrial training. This proposal united the opposition of the boards of guardians, who objected to a new authority, to that of those who demurred to giving the pauper children any better education than the children of the lowest independent labourer.

In 1844, as we have seen, the Central Authority obtained statutory power to direct the establishment of district schools; but no Order on the subject appears to have been issued prior to 1847.

We pass now to the children of an age to be started in life. Though the Central Authority had been expressly empowered to issue regulations as to apprenticeship, it did not, during its first decade, issue any Order on the subject. The only indication which we can find of the policy which it wished pursued during this decade with regard to such children is a comment on the proposed Bill for the Amendment of the Poor Law in 1840. This comment is strongly adverse to the payment of apprenticeship premiums, and suggests that premiums are only needed in “occasional” cases of lame or blind children. Not until 1845 does the Central Authority issue any directions on the subject. By the Apprenticeship Orders of December 1844, and January 1845, amended in August 1845, and included and amplified in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, elaborate conditions of apprenticeship were prescribed for the protection of the apprentice; limits of age were fixed; the duties of the masters were made more onerous and definite; and the payment of premiums, whilst still allowed for children between nine and sixteen, was expressly prohibited, at first for all over fourteen, but subsequently for all over sixteen, unless physically deformed or defective, except in the form of clothing. But the Central Authority does not advocate apprenticeship. On the contrary, in issuing the Order of 1845, it wrote a special letter to accompany it in which the local authorities were pointedly reminded that it had hitherto refrained from issuing any regulations on the subject; that as Parliament had not abolished the system of apprenticeship it would “doubtless continue to be practised in those districts where it has hitherto prevailed”; that “there are not wanting authorities of weight against the system”; and that local authorities were not to infer that the Central Authority entertained “any desire to promote its introduction.”

Apart from this severe discouragement of apprenticeship we can discover no indication of the policy of the Central Authority as to starting the children in life. No advice was given to the local authorities on the subject.

Children and the Poor Law Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: It was with regard to children that the policy of the Central Authority in this period made the greatest advance. This, however, applies chiefly to the 40,000 children who were being relieved in institutions. With regard to the children being maintained on outdoor relief-who were at least five times as numerous-we do not find that the Central Authority in this period took any cognisance of their condition, except to some small extent with regard to their schooling. Even this was a new feature. In 1844, as already mentioned, the Central Authority had expressly refused to allow 2d. a week to be paid for the schooling of such a child, or even to permit that sum to be added to the outdoor relief to the parent with the same object. This decision was emphasised by a Circular in 1847, laying down that pauper children living at home were not to be educated at the expense of the poor rate. For years the Manchester Board of Guardians, under the leadership of Mr. Hodgson, had tried to get some of their outdoor pauper children to school, the guardians actually maintaining a primitive day school of their own for this purpose. The Central Authority refused to sanction this experiment, forbade its extension, questioned the lawfulness of the guardians’ action, and between 1850 and 1855 seems always to have been complaining about it. In 1855, however, Parliament reversed the policy of non-responsibility for outdoor pauper children, so far as to allow the boards of guardians, if they chose, to pay for the schooling of such children between the ages of four and sixteen. They were, however, expressly forbidden to make it a condition of relief that the child should attend school, for fear of exciting religious jealousies, all schools being then denominational. The Central Authority, in transmitting this statute (“Denison’s Act”) to the boards of guardians, laid stress on its permissive character. No instructions or suggestions were given as to the kind of school to be chosen, though if the guardians in their exercise of their discretion did pay the fees of any children, they were to satisfy themselves of their due attendance. But it trusted that “it will be soon brought into extensive operation,” and presently 3986 out of the 200,000 outdoor pauper children were at school. Special efforts were made during the Lancashire cotton famine to get the Act carried out, and gradually more of the boards of guardians adopted the policy. In 1870 the Elementary Education Act made education compulsory over a large part of the country, and authorised boards of guardians not only to pay fees, but also to make attendance at school a condition of relief. This, however, came as part of the educational policy of Parliament, not as part of the Poor Law policy of the Central Authority. So far as these children were concerned (though nominal fees continued to be paid out of the poor rate until 1891), the provision of schooling became merged in the general communistic provision of schooling for the whole population. By this beginning of communistic provision of education for the whole population (completed by the Free Education Act of 1891), the Poor Law authorities were enabled to escape-so far as education was concerned-from the embarrassing dilemma of either placing the pauper child in a position of vantage, or of deliberately bringing up the quarter of a million pauper children in a state of ignorance similar to that of the children of the poorest independent labourer prior to 1870. In respect of everything but education the problem remained. So far as regards the couple of hundred thousand children maintained on outdoor relief, the Central Authority left the boards of guardians without advice on this dilemma.

Passing now to the 40,000 children in Poor Law institutions, we have described how, between 1834 and 1847, the Central Authority, in disregard of the recommendations of the 1834 Report, had adopted the policy of having one common workhouse for each union, under a single head, and with an almost identical regimen for all classes of inmates. It was necessarily incidental to the policy of the Outdoor Relief Prohibitory Order which was then widely prevalent, that the wife and children of the destitute man should be relieved only in the workhouse. These institutions came, therefore, to be the homes and places of education of not only orphans and foundlings, but also of tens of thousands of other children, who were often immured in them from birth until they could be placed out in service. Apparently the idea of one general workhouse for each union, under one uniform discipline, was too deeply rooted in the Poor Law Commissioners to allow of any provision being made for children in the Orders concerning workhouse management. No provision was made for the children going out for walks or games or play. No Order required the guardians to appoint a qualified schoolmaster, or, indeed, any teacher at all, or to buy any school-books. Year after year the returns from many unions continue to state “No teachers in workhouse,” without evoking from the Central Authority any compulsory Order.

It is to the credit of the new Poor Law Board that it at once admitted that the much-vaunted general workhouse system was, so far as the children were concerned, simply manufacturing paupers. “Too many of those brought up in the workhouse,” said Mr. Charles Buller in 1848, “were marked by a tendency to regard the workhouse as their natural and proper home…. They had been accustomed to the workhouse from their earliest infancy and … to the confinement, … and when they became adults there was nothing to deter them from entering it.” The remedy now proposed was the removal of all children from the workhouses to separate Poor Law schools, and their education, irrespective of cost, in such a way “as may best tend to raise them from the class of paupers to that of independent labourers and artisans.” To attain this end the Central Authority secured another statute in amendment of the hitherto abortive Act of 1844, permitting the establishment of “district schools” by combinations of unions. But what enabled this policy to be begun in the teeth of persistent opposition was a terrible outbreak of cholera at Mr. Drouet’s establishment at Tooting, where the pauper children of many parishes had continued (as a survival of the old Poor Law, not yet interfered with by the Central Authority) to be “farmed out.”

In the course of the same year the Central Authority succeeded in forming half-a-dozen school districts, and approved the establishment of a gigantic boarding-school for each of them, accommodating 800, and even 1000 children. The General Order issued in 1849 for the government of these “district schools” did not prescribe the details of administration so precisely as did the General Consolidated Order of 1847; and much latitude was left to the enterprise of the governing body. Against the formation of these school districts the boards of guardians successfully rebelled, much preferring to have a separate school for each union, and outside London this was the system generally adopted by the more populous unions. These separate schools, which were in all cases distinct from the workhouse, were regulated by special Orders, providing in similar general terms for the elements of good administration, but also leaving much to the discretion of the guardians. The Central Authority now pressed the policy of separate schools on the boards of guardians at every opportunity. In 1856, for instance, we find it saying to the Holborn Guardians that it cannot “too strongly urge upon the guardians the importance of the children being so brought up as to preserve them, as far as possible, free from the habits and associations contracted in a workhouse; and of their receiving such instruction as will fit them to earn their own livelihood. These objects will be best secured by the removal of the children to a separate school.” The Central Authority made useful suggestions, and it also encouraged improvements by laudatory description of the best schools in the Official Circular and the Annual Reports. When it was objected by some boards of guardians that to teach writing and arithmetic to the pauper children was to give them advantages superior to those of the children of the independent labourer, the Central Authority replied that the provision of a good education for the children was not likely to encourage voluntary pauperism in the parents, and therefore there was no need to apply the principle of less eligibility in this case.

On the other hand, it has to be recorded that there were apparently opposing influences at work, as the Norwich Board of Guardians found to its cost in 1854. That board had in 1846, apparently of its own accord, begun a most interesting experiment. As the workhouse was old and overcrowded, and obviously contaminating to the hundreds of children it contained, separate “Boys’ and Girls’ Homes” were established, away from the workhouse and under separate management. At these early types of Poor Law schools the children received both scholastic and industrial training. Their special feature was, however, that the boys of sufficient age were placed out in situations in the town, continuing to use the institution as their home, and contributing the wages that they earned towards the cost of their maintenance. The Norwich Guardians had found, as others have done since, that the old style of indoor apprenticeship was nearly extinct. They had resorted to what they called “outdoor apprenticeship.” “In nineteen cases out of twenty the apprentices bound out … have been outdoor apprentices and have resided with their parents, and received certain weekly allowances. Masters will not consent to take into their houses pauper apprentices.” The Central Authority had objected to this, and had insisted on enforcing the usual apprenticeship order. Apparently it was not found possible to place boys out on this obsolete system, and the plan was adopted of getting the boys situations at wages, low at first, and not for some years amounting to enough fully to maintain them. This experiment had been undertaken with the full knowledge of the Poor Law inspectors, who constantly visited the homes, and who expressed themselves in high praise of their success, and it had even been specially described in print, with great commendation, by the inspector of pauper schools. Indeed, the eighty-seven boys who had already passed out of the homes (presumably as soon as their wages were big enough to keep them) were, with fewer than a dozen exceptions, well launched in the world and doing well. In 1854, however, after eight years, the Central Authority intimated that the whole expenditure on the homes was illegal, as being unauthorised, and it was in fact disallowed. It added that, whilst it was prepared to sanction the continuance of the homes as mere schools, it could not permit them to be used as homes for the elder boys who went out to work. The grounds on which this decision was arrived at are not clear. In one place it is stated that the Poor Law Board “conceive it to be unjust to the children of the independent poor,” presumably unjust to give the pauper boys such advantages. In another place it is stated that the Poor Law Board had only been induced to permit the homes temporarily on the understanding that they were self-supporting-a contention hardly consistent with that of their illegality-whereas the boys who went out to work proved to cost something to the rates, though admittedly less than they would have cost in the workhouse. In a third place it is pointed out that the projected new workhouse will amply accommodate all the children, so that the homes will be unnecessary even as schools-an argument which seems inconsistent with the general policy of the Poor Law Board, unless we are to infer that it wanted only district schools by combinations of unions. We may note, as a final hint of the uncertainty that prevailed, that, after three years’ correspondence, the Poor Law inspector advised the guardians to ask the Central Authority to sanction temporarily the continuance of the homes, as “it is quite possible … that within the next two years the Legislature may resolve on communicating greater vitality to the provisions for the establishment of district schools.” He had told the clerk to the guardians verbally that it was probable that Parliament would make it compulsory to provide for pauper children in establishments apart from workhouses, but that he saw “with regret how strongly different views are pressed” in regard to these homes; and that the guardians would meanwhile do well to delay proceeding with any but the adults’ wards of the new workhouse.

No such legislation as was thus foreshadowed took place, but the policy of removing the children from the workhouses was meanwhile incidentally promoted by an Act of 1849, which enabled use to be made of any establishment in which paupers were maintained by contract “for the education of any poor children therein.”Similarly the various Industrial Schools Acts opened up another class of schools to pauper children. Finally, the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1869 enabled training ships to be established by school districts and the Metropolitan Asylums Board for the education of pauper boys for the sea service. Already by 1856 it was reported with satisfaction that 78 per cent of the children under boards of guardians in the Metropolis were in separate schools-statistics, however, which continued to ignore the much larger number of children on outdoor relief, of whose existence the Central Authority only gradually became aware.

During the next twenty years we see this policy of separate boarding schools for such of the Poor Law children as were on indoor relief being constantly pressed on boards of guardians. The erection of these costly barrack schools, which were each regulated by a separate Special Order, differing slightly from school to school, the steady improvement in their accommodation and diet, and the continuous rise in the educational standard attained, which is the great feature of the ensuing period (though in accordance with the recommendations of the 1834 Report), marks a definite abandonment, as regards the children, of the principle that the condition of the pauper should always be less eligible than that of the lowest class of independent labourer. But although in the course of the period 1847-71, in the Metropolis and various large towns, the greater number of the boys and girls between five and fourteen were removed from the workhouses to these “barrack schools” and similar institutions, such schools were not made compulsory; the retention of children in the workhouse was not forbidden, and in hundreds of unions they remained unaffected by the new policy of the Central Authority, which apparently felt unable to require the boards of guardians to adopt it. Even when the bulk of the children were placed in separate schools, there were always some in the workhouse itself; and it is remarkable that the Central Authority made no attempt to modify for these the provisions of the General Consolidated Order of 1847, the effect of which upon the workhouse administration of the period we have already described.

Meanwhile the “workhouse schools” continued to improve very slowly in educational efficiency. The policy of the Central Authority was apparently to develop industrial training-agricultural work, the simpler handicrafts, and domestic service-on the model of the “Quatt School” in Shropshire. Whether or not this industrial work militated against more intellectual accomplishments is a moot point, but we hear of “the reports of ‘the stagnant dulness of workhouse education’ which annually proceed from Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools.”

Whether or not from a certain divergence of aim between the departments, the connection was in 1863 severed, and the Poor Law Board thenceforward had its own inspectors of Poor Law Schools, whose criticisms and complaints, all in favour of the large district schools as compared with the single union school, appear from 1867 onward in the Annual Reports.

At the very end of the period we may note the beginning of a reaction against the “barrack schools.” It was pointed out by those acquainted with the Scottish system of boarding-out, as well as by persons experienced in English Poor Law administration, that these expensive boarding schools were not answering so well as their admirers claimed, especially as regards the girls. During 1866-9 the alternative of “boarding-out” children in private families at 4s. a week (now 5s.) was warmly discussed, and experimentally adopted in a few places. In 1869 the Central Authority so far yielded to the criticisms made upon these institutions as to permit, under elaborate restrictions and safeguards, the “boarding-out,” in families beyond the limits of the union, of the comparatively small class of children who were actually or practically orphans. In these cases all idea of making the condition of the pauper child less eligible than that of the lowest independent labourer was definitely abandoned. The whole concern of the Central Authority was to see that the provision for the boarded-out child was good and complete. Far from being assimilated to the children of the lowest independent labourers, the boarded-out children were only to be entrusted to specially selected families superior to the lowest, who undertook to bring them up as their own, to provide proper food, clothing and washing, to train them in good habits as well as in suitable domestic and industrial work, and to make them regularly attend school and place of worship. For all this the foster parents were to receive with each child a sum three or four times as great as was, with the sanction of the Central Authority, commonly allowed for the maintenance of each of the couple of hundred thousand children at that date on outdoor relief; and which (as Professor Fawcett vainly objected) was far in excess of what the ordinary labourer could afford to expend on his own children. “A plan,” observed Mr. Fowle, “which cannot be defended on any sound principles of Poor Law.” “It is indeed impossible,” says Mr. Mackay in this connection, “to deny that apparently every provision for pauper children may be regarded as a contravention of this rule…. Professor Fawcett’s … argument has been tacitly neglected.”

Children and the Local Government Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: (i.) On Outdoor Relief

There seems to have been, so far as regards children, no explicit change in policy in 1871. To take first the 336,870 children under sixteen who were on outdoor relief on 1st January 1871-almost exactly one-third of the aggregate pauperism-we see continued the same ignoring of their general condition. We do not find that the inspectors ever investigated what was happening to these children or that the Central Authority ever made any official inquiry, still less issued any order, on the subject. The general policy of restricting outdoor relief, which we have sufficiently described, had incidentally the effect, in the course of twenty years, of reducing the number of children on outdoor relief by nearly one-half.

On one point, indeed, that of education, as we have seen, Parliament had explicitly over-ridden the implied contention that the Poor Law Authorities had no responsibility for the welfare of the children on outdoor relief. The policy of Denison’s Act of 1855, which had been comparatively little acted upon, was extended in 1873 so as to make it compulsory on boards of guardians to see that such children between five and thirteen were regularly at school. The guardians were even required to pay the school fees for children-even illegitimate children-who were not paupers, if they needed this, and the parents did not thereby become paupers.We see the Central Authority communicating these decisions of the Legislature without comment, and the boards of guardians carrying them out as they chose;sometimes even taking it upon themselves to petition the Education Department to relax the requirement of schooling after twelve, as being hard on the parent, useless to the child, and leading to “much necessary work being left undone,” especially “the eradication of pernicious weeds.”

We may see further imposition of responsibility on the boards of guardians for the well-being of the children of the poor, in the series of Acts for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Already in 1868 boards of guardians had been expressly directed by statute to institute proceedings against parents who neglected their children.In 1888 the Central Authority reminded the guardians of the power they had thus had for twenty years, without often making use of it. In 1889 Parliament enacted that any person having the custody of a child under sixteen who “wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes such child, or causes or procures such child to be ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to its health, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour,” and that the guardians might, “out of the funds under their control, pay the reasonable costs and expenses of any proceedings” which they direct to be taken. They were not definitely required to take such proceedings, but Parliament laid the duty upon them to do so. The Act of 1894 made the provisions more explicit, and defined injury to health so as to include “injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement.”

These statutes were applicable, among others, to the 170,000 children on outdoor relief, many of whom were plainly underfed, housed in insanitary conditions, half-clothed, and generally treated in a manner “likely to cause injury” to their health; but we do not find that the boards of guardians realised the great increase of power and responsibility thus entrusted to them. The Central Authority, which observed mildly that Parliament evidently meant the guardians to institute proceedings, did not point out to them the applicability of the new statutes to the children on outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians, so far as we can ascertain, seldom or never acted on them. In 1904, accordingly, the power to pay the expenses of prosecution was transferred to county and borough authorities, so that the guardians ceased to be responsible for taking proceedings; but the workhouse remains a “place of safety” to which a constable or other person authorised by a Justice may take a child, the guardians are required to provide for the reception of any child so brought to the workhouse, and the master is bound to admit such child if there is sufficient accommodation.

After 1890 we find the responsibility of the Poor Law authorities for all the outdoor paupers beginning to be recognised by the inspectorate. “The absolute responsibility of the guardians for the material well-being of every one who is in receipt of outdoor relief,” said Mr. Davy in 1893, had been officially recognised by the District Nurses Order, to which we shall recur. “If any relief at all is given to an applicant,” Mr. Davy laid it down, “it is the plain duty of the guardians to take precautions to insure that … the pauper is sufficiently fed, clothed, and lodged.” This was notoriously not the case in many unions, the children especially being in an evil plight. “In many unions,” said Mr. Baldwyn Fleming, in 1891, “the relieving officer and the inspector of nuisances could show guardians cases … where large families are living in cottages too small for them, and the accommodation is in almost every respect unsatisfactory, where the children have little but rags to cover them by day or night, where school attendance is avoided to the utmost, where the feeding only just escapes starvation, where the physical and moral education of the children are equally impracticable, where infant life is one constant struggle with misery and privation.” The demoralising association of the outdoor pauper children with the pay-station was specially denounced by another inspector. “What,” he said, “is the sense, I would ask-I do ask in board rooms-of all this trouble and outlay to put the children into cottage homes or scattered homes, to keep them, in fact, altogether away from the workhouse, if while doing all this the very same authority permit the precisely similar children of the outdoor poor to haunt the pay-stations, to hang about workhouse gates, or to sit mixed up in waiting-rooms with adult paupers…. The children, early in life, often at times when they ought to be at school, have their eyes opened to the facility with which by exaggerating your impecunious condition, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week can be got without the labour of earning it…. The master of one of the board schools had written … to complain that three children systematically were kept from school on a particular day of the week for the purpose of drawing relief due to their parents.”

We cannot find, however, any order, minute, or circular explicitly taking official cognisance of the condition of these children (except in respect of the statutory requirement of school attendance); nor do the boards of guardians seem to have taken any trouble to inquire into their condition. In 1901 the Central Authority had reported to it, at its special request (in connection with the adequacy of the amount granted, especially for the aged), the amounts usually given in outdoor relief. In the majority of unions it must then have appeared that the amount allowed for the support of each child on outdoor relief was either the 1s. and one loaf per week, which had had the sanction of Mr. Corbett in 1869, or frequently 1s. 6d. per week. The Bradford Board of Guardians, however, if no other, reported that it allowed to deserving widows with dependent children 4s. for the first child, 3s. for the second, and 2s. for each additional child (besides 5s. for the mother herself). We do not find that any official view has been expressed as to this diversity.

At the very end of the period we find Parliament suddenly insisting on the responsibility of the boards of guardians for the condition, not only of the children on outdoor relief, but of all children in so far as sufficiency of food is concerned. By the Act of 1906 special provision is made for children at school who are in need of food. This Act, embodied in a General Order, was communicated to boards of guardians in a circular which explains the exact degree of responsibility which, in the opinion of the Central Authority, Parliament has thereby imposed on them. A parent is bound to supply his children with necessary food, and if he is unable to do so should apply to the guardians for help. When a father, being able to supply food, neglects to do so, or being unable neglects to apply to the guardians, so that the child is underfed, a “special application” on behalf of the child may be made to the guardians or relieving officer “by the managers, or by a teacher duly empowered by the managers, of a public elementary school, or by an officer duly empowered by the local education authority.” If the food is urgently needed it is to be supplied at once, as a loan to the father, and he is to be informed as soon as possible that it has been so given. When there is no such urgency, the father is to be informed that food will be supplied before it is given, that he may have the opportunity of providing it himself; and the guardians are to inquire whether the need is due to habitual neglect; if it is so, the relief shall (and in any case it may) be given on loan.

Whenever relief under this order is given on loan, the guardians are obliged to take proceedings for its recovery, unless the Local Government Board specially approves of their not doing so, which approval would only be obtainable in very special circumstances, e.g. if it were obviously impossible to recover the amount. It is held to be particularly important that these proceedings should always be taken, as they are the only means of safeguarding against abuse, for the rule that, as a condition of relief, the able-bodied father must enter the workhouse or be set to work by the guardians is specially abrogated in cases under this order, as being inapplicable to them. The order does not apply to any child who is blind or deaf and dumb, nor in the case of any relative except the father, nor if the child is not resident with the father. Relief is not to be ordered on a “special application” for a longer period than one month. “Where a special application is renewed within a short time, say six months, after the expiration of the period for which the relief has been given, and further relief has to be allowed, or where within this period special application is made and relief is given in respect of some other member of the same family, and the cause of the application is the habitual neglect of the father to provide food, the Board think that the guardians should consider whether the case is one in which proceedings could be taken against the father, either under the Vagrancy Act 1824, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904.”

Finally, the Board “trust that the boards of guardians, particularly those of populous unions in which cases of underfed children more frequently occur, will endeavour to co-operate with the local education authorities in dealing with really necessitous cases, whilst exercising due discrimination so as to avoid the pauperisation and consequent disfranchisement of parents who ought not to be brought under the Poor Law.”

The number of outdoor pauper children is now slightly more than in 1892, there being on 1st January 1906, 179,870 such, 96,804 being widows’ children, 72,721 children with both parents or with fathers only, and 10,345 having no parents.

Turning now to the much smaller number of children in Poor Law institutions, of whom there were on January 1st 1871, 55,832 (together with a very small number “boarded out”), we see a similar continuity of policy in the Central Authority, but in these cases it is continuity in the policy of a constant enlargement of responsibility, and of a steady improvement in the provision.

(ii.) In Poor Law Schools

The main pre-occupation of the Central Authority since 1871, so far as children are concerned, has been the increase, progressive improvement, and novel development of the Poor Law school entirely removed from the workhouse. The recommendations and incitements to boards of guardians to remove from the workhouse the healthy children of school age are incessant down to 1900. Such children are ordinarily accommodated in Poor Law schools, either district schools, where these exist, or much more frequently “separated” or “workhouse schools,” which may be of the old aggregated type, or “cottage homes” or “scattered homes.” The dramatic change from the views of 1850 is the abandonment of the “district school.” The aggregated type, held in such esteem previously to 1871, fell gradually into disfavour, and is now known as the “barrack school.” Already in 1871 Mr. Corbett was criticising these schools as being far too large (as well as too indiscriminate in the kind of children admitted) to be really successful. After repeated outbreaks of malignant ophthalmia, and continued experience of the mental draw-backs, especially of the large girls’ schools, the Central Authority abandoned its policy, and presently came to decline to sanction proposals which would have the effect of “extending the large schools in the Metropolis and … most readily entertain any proposals for applying to other purposes any of these large buildings, subject to other provision of a suitable character being made for the children.” The barrack school system grew up out of the five Metropolitan school districts; these also therefore shared in the condemnation, and in 1899 two had been dissolved.

A “separate school” belonging to a single union or separate parish would naturally be much smaller than a district school, but nothing is said as to the merits or demerits of an aggregated school of moderate size. The method which seems to have won the approval of the Central Authority is that of “cottage homes,” or the “block system,” under which children are grouped in bodies of not more than twenty-five or thirty in separate houses on a common ground of considerable acreage, and with suitable common buildings, such as baths, chapels, etc., under the supervision, not only of “house-mothers,” but also of a superintendent of the whole. Since 1894 the Board have constantly approved the erection of schools on this plan; they always require that the cottage homes should be entirely separated from the workhouse. The outstanding feature of this system is the great expense.

An alternative plan is that of “scattered homes,” i.e. cottages taken here and there throughout the union, not adjacent to each other, wherein the children live under the care of matrons or foster parents, and whence they attend the public elementary schools. In some cases the results of this system have been good, but the Central Authority received reports of certain cases of bad management, which made it cautious in regard to other proposals in that direction. The adoption of the system in Camberwell was sanctioned on the conditions that the guardians could satisfy the Central Authority that they could get proper houses for the scattered homes, and also that they could be quite sure of having an adequate system of inspection.

Notwithstanding the great expense of these highly elaborated boarding-schools for the indoor pauper boys and girls-an expense reaching between ?100 and ?200 capital, and between ?30 and ?50 annual maintenance, for each child-we see the Central Authority constantly pressing for their multiplication. The very idea of “less eligibility” has been forgotten by the inspectors. To quote one of them in 1902: “The number and nature of obstacles (to the removal of children from the workhouse) conjured up in the minds of many of the country guardians is,” he says, “quite surprising. One idea, which proves a great stumbling-block, is that the children will be put in a position above their deserts, and above that of the children living in their own homes with their parents.”

On 1st January 1906, the total number of children in “district or separate schools” was no more than 12,393, whilst in “cottage and other homes” there were 14,590; and 11,368 were in other institutions (mostly certified industrial schools, conducted by philanthropic committees not for profit).

(iii.) The Workhouse Children

Notwithstanding the desire of the Central Authority to remove the children from the workhouses, there remained on 1st January 1906 no fewer than 21,526 in these institutions. The Central Authority has, for instance, never objected to the retention in workhouses of children of tender years, or of children of any age, in the interval before they can be sent to school. In 1889, indeed, it was especially forbidden to send children to separate schools under the age of three. Though no alteration has been made in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, by which the internal economy of the workhouse is professedly governed, the Central Authority laid it down in 1895 that “in every workhouse in which there are several children too young to attend school, a separate nursery-dry, spacious, light, and well ventilated-should be provided, and should be suitably furnished.”

The children are always to be under the supervision of paid officers, a recommendation made in the days of the Poor Law Board, but still up to 1895 frequently urged-showing that at any rate till then it had not been effectively insisted on. Even in that year the Board had to write: “In no case should the care of young children be entrusted to inferior or weak-minded inmates”-a qualification which weakens the force of the prohibition of the use of paupers at all. “Unless young children are placed under responsible supervision they cannot be said to be ‘properly taken care of'”; and again, more generally, “all children in workhouses should be under the charge of officers, either industrial trainers or caretakers, and should not be left to the charge of adult paupers.” The medical officer is responsible for the children’s health, and with a view to the prevention of disease he is expected to inspect them, whether they are ill or not, “frequently and individually.” In this connection may be mentioned a “Memorandum relative to Ophthalmia of New-born Children,” in which the Board requested medical officers to give each nurse or midwife acting under their directions such written instructions as they might deem necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject. In 1882 the Central Authority refused to sanction any women’s committee; but by 1897 the guardians were urged to appoint women’s committees for the supervision of the women and children in the workhouse.

It is interesting to trace the growth of opinion with regard to the provision for the children of means of enjoyment. For half a century after 1834 the Central Authority allowed no toys whatever for all its tens of thousands of indoor children of all ages. An auditor in 1883 disallowed sums spent on toys for sick children, and Mr. Hibbert was questioned in Parliament. He said “there have been similar disallowances previously, and the Local Government Board, while relieving the persons surcharged of their liability, have held that expenditure of this character should be defrayed by private liberality, rather than out of rates compulsorily levied.” The disallowances had therefore hitherto been confirmed, the payments being thus decided to be actually illegal. “The subject,” continued Mr. Hibbert, “had been considered in connection with the recent surcharge, and it is proposed to hold that the expenditure was within the legal powers of the guardians, and the auditor will be communicated with, with a view to a reversal of his decision.” It is not clear which of these conflicting decisions of the Central Authority was in accordance with law.

In 1891 the Board wrote: “The supply of illustrated books and periodicals of children is especially desirable. Admirable publications of this class can now be obtained at a very small cost, and where it appears to be necessary an expenditure by the guardians for this purpose should, in the Board’s opinion, be urged upon them. The question of the provision of bats, balls, skipping-ropes, etc., for the children and toys for the infants, is also one which the Board are desirous should receive the attention of the inspectors on the occasion of their inspections of the workhouses.”

“Special care should be taken that a sufficient part of each day is set apart for recreation only, and that the children should be allowed to take exercise frequently outside the workhouse premises, and that they should be encouraged in healthy games of all sorts.” The guardians were allowed to take girls from the Forest Gate Schools to see the sights of London, provided the places visited were approved by the school inspector, and also to pay a donation to the funds of a Band of Hope, when the Poor Law children were allowed to share in the work of the society.

In recent years, we see the inspectorate urging that even children of tender years ought not to live in the workhouse. This is a new idea which has not yet received more formal endorsement. As children under three may not, by the Central Authority’s own order of 10th February 1899, be sent to a separate Poor Law school, there is as yet no place for them but the workhouse. “Nothing has been said,” observed Mr. Jenner Fust, in 1901, “about the nursery children, at present retained at the workhouse till three years old, or even more, though the case of these requires attention as much as that of the older ones. They are almost always largely under the care of inmates, and the conditions are seldom improved even when these inmates are their own mothers…. I cannot but think that nursery homes with trained nurses as foster-mothers should form part of the equipment of all cottage homes, or, if a separate receiving home be established, the nursery children might conveniently be placed there, the removal from the workhouse not being delayed beyond the period when a child is able to walk.”

With regard to the education of the older workhouse children the Central Authority has changed its policy. It does not actually forbid the guardians to arrange for a school within the workhouse, which was the policy of 1850. But the plan now favoured is to send them out to the public elementary schools, as is also done when they are placed in scattered homes. At first the Central Authority only sanctioned this course with reluctance, only when the number of such children was small, and with special recommendations as to the appointment of officers to supervise the children out of school hours and impart industrial training. In the case of one union, they “urged the guardians to reconsider the question, with a view to the appointment either of a caretaker of the children or a porter, who could give that attention to the boys when in the workhouse which was of such importance to their future welfare.” Later, perhaps, when the principle of paid “caretakers” had become more fully accepted, the Central Authority gave the system much more hearty support, noted its prevalence with satisfaction, and considered it highly desirable that children in Poor Law establishments should thus be given opportunities of mixing with other children.

When there is a choice of elementary schools, each child should be sent to the one conducted according to its own religious creed, and it was also recommended that the children should be sent out to Sunday schools of their own denomination. This denomination is ordinarily that of the child’s parents, but if the religion is not known, he is to be brought up in the Church of England: if the father changes his creed, that of the child changes also.

While in the workhouse the children are to receive instruction in industrial and manual work, but the Board strongly resisted proposals for sending them out to work in factories.

Subject to these conditions, the 21,526 children living in the workhouse remain there to the knowledge and with the sanction of the Central Authority-at least, this is what the guardians contend, and, so far as we can discover, there is no order, circular, or minute to the contrary.

Meanwhile the guardians are pressed to bestow on them an amount of salaried care and expensive attention that surprises the more old-fashioned among them, who have not yet quite abandoned the principle of “less eligibility.” “One matter of some interest,” says Mr. Baldwyn Fleming in 1902, “is the curious reluctance displayed by country guardians to have the children’s teeth cared for.” The argument used is, “The ratepayers do not take their children to the dentist, and why should we do so?” (in the case of the indoor Poor Law children.)

(iv.) The Education of the Indoor Pauper Child

Down to 1897 the Central Authority had contemplated and recognised in its orders and circulars that the pauper children would spend only about half the school time in ordinary school subjects, the other half being devoted to what was euphemistically called “industrial training.” This meant, in practice, the employment of the children in domestic work, gardening, mending clothes or boots, and so on, the persons selected as “industrial trainers” not being required to have any pedagogic qualifications or power to teach, and being paid in fact only at workmen’s rates. In 1897, the rapid abandonment of the half-time system outside the workhouse led to a great advance. By the Order of that year, which governs all Poor Law schools, whether they are in workhouses or district or separate schools, the half-time system is greatly discouraged. Industrial training takes a subordinate place. The Order fixes the number of hours during which the children are to be under school instruction, and provides for a ten minutes’ rest in every attendance of two hours or more, limits the number of hours which may be occupied in manual or industrial work, and provides for one whole holiday or two half-holidays in each week, in addition to allowing six weeks’ holidays in the year if the guardians choose to grant it. One object of the Order was to secure that children should not be unduly pressed with manual or industrial work in addition to the school instruction. The religious teaching required by any Orders in force is to be given in addition to the school hours. In 1877 it had been ordered that any time which might be devoted to drill or industrial training, other than a reasonable time for needlework, in the case of girls, should not be included in the time prescribed for attendance. The present Order, in more general terms, allows school instruction to include “any of the subjects for which grants may be made under the Code of Regulations of the Education Department, for the time being in force, except cookery, laundry work, dairy work, or cottage gardening.” Of the time allowed for needlework, not more than one-third is to be spent in mending; the rest is to be occupied in plain needlework, knitting, and cutting out and making garments. When children attend school for half-time, it is preferred that they shall receive the school instruction in the morning, and the industrial training in the afternoon. There is now no superior limit to the education that may be provided for a pauper child within the proper ages. As early as 1878 payment for the attendance of the workhouse girls at a school of cookery was held to be legal. Guardians are allowed to pay the fees for the instruction of the children at a technical institute when they see fit to do so, quite irrespective of whether or not the children of the poorest independent labourer can get such advantages.

It may be noted that a Special Order of 30th April 1887 (not mentioned in the Annual Reports, or otherwise communicated to boards of guardians) enables the Forest Gate District School to allow a class of the elder girls to go out and buy their food, spending not more than 3s. 6d. a week each, and prepare it for their own consumption, so as to get some practical experience of ordinary life. By another Order of 5th August 1889, the children in this one school are allowed to buy their own outfits (up to ?3 10s.). We do not find that the Central Authority has yet made these privileges general, nor extended them to any other indoor pauper children.

On 1st April 1904, the responsibility for the inspection of the education of the Poor Law Schools, and of pauper children in certified schools, was transferred to the Board of Education thus reverting to the policy prior to 1863.

(v.) Boarding-out

The boarding-out system was in 1871 still on its trial, having been authorised for scarcely a year, and the Central Authority was very guarded in expressing any opinion on its merits; it gradually won favour, but while mildly encouraging it the Central Authority would do nothing to force its growth. In 1900 it was referred to as one method of removing children from the workhouse, but it was never thought likely to become a practical means for dealing with the mass of pauper children, as a substitute either for ordinary outdoor relief or for Poor Law schools.

Boarding-out beyond the union had been first regulated by the Order of 25th November 1870. In 1877 it was found that boarding-out within the union was being largely practised, it being, as the Central Authority had itself held, legally only ordinary out-relief, requiring no sanction. This also was then regulated by a General Order.Both these Orders were re-issued with slight modifications in 1889, the former to every union in the country, the latter to all but the most populous town unions. Again, in 1905, the Order for boarding-out beyond the union was slightly altered and re-issued.

The operation of these Orders was limited to certain classes of children; in 1877 to those deserted by their parents, or whose parents were dead, undergoing penal servitude, suffering from mental disease, or out of England; by the Orders of 1889, children whose parents were permanently bedridden or disabled were added to the list; and in 1905 children adopted by the guardians were formally included, as such children could previously only be boarded out if they were also orphan or deserted according to the definition. The Central Authority refused its sanction to a proposal to board out the illegitimate children of able-bodied women in the workhouse. It was twice decided that when out-relief is given to a child living with a person not legally liable for its support, such child must be considered as boarded out. There is no age limit for boarding-out within the union, but a child may not be first boarded out beyond the union under two, nor when over ten, unless in the same home with a brother or sister under that age.

In view of this gradual adoption of the boarding-out system as a permanent form of the treatment of children under the Poor Law, it is instructive to compare the requirements which the Central Authority makes to ensure the proper maintenance of the boarded-out children with the policy just described in respect of the children on ordinary outdoor relief.

The various Orders all lay practically the same duties on the foster-parent. He is to sign an undertaking that: “He will bring up the child as one of his own children, and provide the child with proper food, lodging and washing, and endeavour to train the child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry, as well as in suitable domestic and outdoor work, so far as may be consistent with the law; that he will take care that the child shall attend duly at church or chapel according to the religious creed to which the child belongs, and shall attend school according to the provisions of the law for the time being; that he will provide for the proper repair and renewal of the child’s clothing, and that in case of the child’s illness he will forthwith report such illness to the guardians and to the boarding-out committee; and that he will at all times permit the child to be visited and the house to be inspected by any member of the boarding-out committee, and by any person specially appointed for that purpose by the guardians or by the Local Government Board. The undertaking shall also contain an engagement on the part of the foster-parent that he will, upon the demand of a person duly authorised in writing by the boarding-out committee, or by the guardians, give up possession of the child.” The 1905 undertaking is slightly different in terms, the chief variation being an omission of the reference t

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also

Children and the Local Government Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: (i.) On Outdoor Relief

There seems to have been, so far as regards children, no explicit change in policy in 1871. To take first the 336,870 children under sixteen who were on outdoor relief on 1st January 1871-almost exactly one-third of the aggregate pauperism-we see continued the same ignoring of their general condition. We do not find that the inspectors ever investigated what was happening to these children or that the Central Authority ever made any official inquiry, still less issued any order, on the subject. The general policy of restricting outdoor relief, which we have sufficiently described, had incidentally the effect, in the course of twenty years, of reducing the number of children on outdoor relief by nearly one-half.

On one point, indeed, that of education, as we have seen, Parliament had explicitly over-ridden the implied contention that the Poor Law Authorities had no responsibility for the welfare of the children on outdoor relief. The policy of Denison’s Act of 1855, which had been comparatively little acted upon, was extended in 1873 so as to make it compulsory on boards of guardians to see that such children between five and thirteen were regularly at school. The guardians were even required to pay the school fees for children-even illegitimate children-who were not paupers, if they needed this, and the parents did not thereby become paupers.We see the Central Authority communicating these decisions of the Legislature without comment, and the boards of guardians carrying them out as they chose;sometimes even taking it upon themselves to petition the Education Department to relax the requirement of schooling after twelve, as being hard on the parent, useless to the child, and leading to “much necessary work being left undone,” especially “the eradication of pernicious weeds.”

We may see further imposition of responsibility on the boards of guardians for the well-being of the children of the poor, in the series of Acts for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Already in 1868 boards of guardians had been expressly directed by statute to institute proceedings against parents who neglected their children.In 1888 the Central Authority reminded the guardians of the power they had thus had for twenty years, without often making use of it. In 1889 Parliament enacted that any person having the custody of a child under sixteen who “wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes such child, or causes or procures such child to be ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to its health, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour,” and that the guardians might, “out of the funds under their control, pay the reasonable costs and expenses of any proceedings” which they direct to be taken. They were not definitely required to take such proceedings, but Parliament laid the duty upon them to do so. The Act of 1894 made the provisions more explicit, and defined injury to health so as to include “injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement.”

These statutes were applicable, among others, to the 170,000 children on outdoor relief, many of whom were plainly underfed, housed in insanitary conditions, half-clothed, and generally treated in a manner “likely to cause injury” to their health; but we do not find that the boards of guardians realised the great increase of power and responsibility thus entrusted to them. The Central Authority, which observed mildly that Parliament evidently meant the guardians to institute proceedings, did not point out to them the applicability of the new statutes to the children on outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians, so far as we can ascertain, seldom or never acted on them. In 1904, accordingly, the power to pay the expenses of prosecution was transferred to county and borough authorities, so that the guardians ceased to be responsible for taking proceedings; but the workhouse remains a “place of safety” to which a constable or other person authorised by a Justice may take a child, the guardians are required to provide for the reception of any child so brought to the workhouse, and the master is bound to admit such child if there is sufficient accommodation.

After 1890 we find the responsibility of the Poor Law authorities for all the outdoor paupers beginning to be recognised by the inspectorate. “The absolute responsibility of the guardians for the material well-being of every one who is in receipt of outdoor relief,” said Mr. Davy in 1893, had been officially recognised by the District Nurses Order, to which we shall recur. “If any relief at all is given to an applicant,” Mr. Davy laid it down, “it is the plain duty of the guardians to take precautions to insure that … the pauper is sufficiently fed, clothed, and lodged.” This was notoriously not the case in many unions, the children especially being in an evil plight. “In many unions,” said Mr. Baldwyn Fleming, in 1891, “the relieving officer and the inspector of nuisances could show guardians cases … where large families are living in cottages too small for them, and the accommodation is in almost every respect unsatisfactory, where the children have little but rags to cover them by day or night, where school attendance is avoided to the utmost, where the feeding only just escapes starvation, where the physical and moral education of the children are equally impracticable, where infant life is one constant struggle with misery and privation.” The demoralising association of the outdoor pauper children with the pay-station was specially denounced by another inspector. “What,” he said, “is the sense, I would ask-I do ask in board rooms-of all this trouble and outlay to put the children into cottage homes or scattered homes, to keep them, in fact, altogether away from the workhouse, if while doing all this the very same authority permit the precisely similar children of the outdoor poor to haunt the pay-stations, to hang about workhouse gates, or to sit mixed up in waiting-rooms with adult paupers…. The children, early in life, often at times when they ought to be at school, have their eyes opened to the facility with which by exaggerating your impecunious condition, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week can be got without the labour of earning it…. The master of one of the board schools had written … to complain that three children systematically were kept from school on a particular day of the week for the purpose of drawing relief due to their parents.”

We cannot find, however, any order, minute, or circular explicitly taking official cognisance of the condition of these children (except in respect of the statutory requirement of school attendance); nor do the boards of guardians seem to have taken any trouble to inquire into their condition. In 1901 the Central Authority had reported to it, at its special request (in connection with the adequacy of the amount granted, especially for the aged), the amounts usually given in outdoor relief. In the majority of unions it must then have appeared that the amount allowed for the support of each child on outdoor relief was either the 1s. and one loaf per week, which had had the sanction of Mr. Corbett in 1869, or frequently 1s. 6d. per week. The Bradford Board of Guardians, however, if no other, reported that it allowed to deserving widows with dependent children 4s. for the first child, 3s. for the second, and 2s. for each additional child (besides 5s. for the mother herself). We do not find that any official view has been expressed as to this diversity.

At the very end of the period we find Parliament suddenly insisting on the responsibility of the boards of guardians for the condition, not only of the children on outdoor relief, but of all children in so far as sufficiency of food is concerned. By the Act of 1906 special provision is made for children at school who are in need of food. This Act, embodied in a General Order, was communicated to boards of guardians in a circular which explains the exact degree of responsibility which, in the opinion of the Central Authority, Parliament has thereby imposed on them. A parent is bound to supply his children with necessary food, and if he is unable to do so should apply to the guardians for help. When a father, being able to supply food, neglects to do so, or being unable neglects to apply to the guardians, so that the child is underfed, a “special application” on behalf of the child may be made to the guardians or relieving officer “by the managers, or by a teacher duly empowered by the managers, of a public elementary school, or by an officer duly empowered by the local education authority.” If the food is urgently needed it is to be supplied at once, as a loan to the father, and he is to be informed as soon as possible that it has been so given. When there is no such urgency, the father is to be informed that food will be supplied before it is given, that he may have the opportunity of providing it himself; and the guardians are to inquire whether the need is due to habitual neglect; if it is so, the relief shall (and in any case it may) be given on loan.

Whenever relief under this order is given on loan, the guardians are obliged to take proceedings for its recovery, unless the Local Government Board specially approves of their not doing so, which approval would only be obtainable in very special circumstances, e.g. if it were obviously impossible to recover the amount. It is held to be particularly important that these proceedings should always be taken, as they are the only means of safeguarding against abuse, for the rule that, as a condition of relief, the able-bodied father must enter the workhouse or be set to work by the guardians is specially abrogated in cases under this order, as being inapplicable to them. The order does not apply to any child who is blind or deaf and dumb, nor in the case of any relative except the father, nor if the child is not resident with the father. Relief is not to be ordered on a “special application” for a longer period than one month. “Where a special application is renewed within a short time, say six months, after the expiration of the period for which the relief has been given, and further relief has to be allowed, or where within this period special application is made and relief is given in respect of some other member of the same family, and the cause of the application is the habitual neglect of the father to provide food, the Board think that the guardians should consider whether the case is one in which proceedings could be taken against the father, either under the Vagrancy Act 1824, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904.”

Finally, the Board “trust that the boards of guardians, particularly those of populous unions in which cases of underfed children more frequently occur, will endeavour to co-operate with the local education authorities in dealing with really necessitous cases, whilst exercising due discrimination so as to avoid the pauperisation and consequent disfranchisement of parents who ought not to be brought under the Poor Law.”

The number of outdoor pauper children is now slightly more than in 1892, there being on 1st January 1906, 179,870 such, 96,804 being widows’ children, 72,721 children with both parents or with fathers only, and 10,345 having no parents.

Turning now to the much smaller number of children in Poor Law institutions, of whom there were on January 1st 1871, 55,832 (together with a very small number “boarded out”), we see a similar continuity of policy in the Central Authority, but in these cases it is continuity in the policy of a constant enlargement of responsibility, and of a steady improvement in the provision.

(ii.) In Poor Law Schools

The main pre-occupation of the Central Authority since 1871, so far as children are concerned, has been the increase, progressive improvement, and novel development of the Poor Law school entirely removed from the workhouse. The recommendations and incitements to boards of guardians to remove from the workhouse the healthy children of school age are incessant down to 1900. Such children are ordinarily accommodated in Poor Law schools, either district schools, where these exist, or much more frequently “separated” or “workhouse schools,” which may be of the old aggregated type, or “cottage homes” or “scattered homes.” The dramatic change from the views of 1850 is the abandonment of the “district school.” The aggregated type, held in such esteem previously to 1871, fell gradually into disfavour, and is now known as the “barrack school.” Already in 1871 Mr. Corbett was criticising these schools as being far too large (as well as too indiscriminate in the kind of children admitted) to be really successful. After repeated outbreaks of malignant ophthalmia, and continued experience of the mental draw-backs, especially of the large girls’ schools, the Central Authority abandoned its policy, and presently came to decline to sanction proposals which would have the effect of “extending the large schools in the Metropolis and … most readily entertain any proposals for applying to other purposes any of these large buildings, subject to other provision of a suitable character being made for the children.” The barrack school system grew up out of the five Metropolitan school districts; these also therefore shared in the condemnation, and in 1899 two had been dissolved.

A “separate school” belonging to a single union or separate parish would naturally be much smaller than a district school, but nothing is said as to the merits or demerits of an aggregated school of moderate size. The method which seems to have won the approval of the Central Authority is that of “cottage homes,” or the “block system,” under which children are grouped in bodies of not more than twenty-five or thirty in separate houses on a common ground of considerable acreage, and with suitable common buildings, such as baths, chapels, etc., under the supervision, not only of “house-mothers,” but also of a superintendent of the whole. Since 1894 the Board have constantly approved the erection of schools on this plan; they always require that the cottage homes should be entirely separated from the workhouse. The outstanding feature of this system is the great expense.

An alternative plan is that of “scattered homes,” i.e. cottages taken here and there throughout the union, not adjacent to each other, wherein the children live under the care of matrons or foster parents, and whence they attend the public elementary schools. In some cases the results of this system have been good, but the Central Authority received reports of certain cases of bad management, which made it cautious in regard to other proposals in that direction. The adoption of the system in Camberwell was sanctioned on the conditions that the guardians could satisfy the Central Authority that they could get proper houses for the scattered homes, and also that they could be quite sure of having an adequate system of inspection.

Notwithstanding the great expense of these highly elaborated boarding-schools for the indoor pauper boys and girls-an expense reaching between ?100 and ?200 capital, and between ?30 and ?50 annual maintenance, for each child-we see the Central Authority constantly pressing for their multiplication. The very idea of “less eligibility” has been forgotten by the inspectors. To quote one of them in 1902: “The number and nature of obstacles (to the removal of children from the workhouse) conjured up in the minds of many of the country guardians is,” he says, “quite surprising. One idea, which proves a great stumbling-block, is that the children will be put in a position above their deserts, and above that of the children living in their own homes with their parents.”

On 1st January 1906, the total number of children in “district or separate schools” was no more than 12,393, whilst in “cottage and other homes” there were 14,590; and 11,368 were in other institutions (mostly certified industrial schools, conducted by philanthropic committees not for profit).

(iii.) The Workhouse Children

Notwithstanding the desire of the Central Authority to remove the children from the workhouses, there remained on 1st January 1906 no fewer than 21,526 in these institutions. The Central Authority has, for instance, never objected to the retention in workhouses of children of tender years, or of children of any age, in the interval before they can be sent to school. In 1889, indeed, it was especially forbidden to send children to separate schools under the age of three. Though no alteration has been made in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, by which the internal economy of the workhouse is professedly governed, the Central Authority laid it down in 1895 that “in every workhouse in which there are several children too young to attend school, a separate nursery-dry, spacious, light, and well ventilated-should be provided, and should be suitably furnished.”

The children are always to be under the supervision of paid officers, a recommendation made in the days of the Poor Law Board, but still up to 1895 frequently urged-showing that at any rate till then it had not been effectively insisted on. Even in that year the Board had to write: “In no case should the care of young children be entrusted to inferior or weak-minded inmates”-a qualification which weakens the force of the prohibition of the use of paupers at all. “Unless young children are placed under responsible supervision they cannot be said to be ‘properly taken care of'”; and again, more generally, “all children in workhouses should be under the charge of officers, either industrial trainers or caretakers, and should not be left to the charge of adult paupers.” The medical officer is responsible for the children’s health, and with a view to the prevention of disease he is expected to inspect them, whether they are ill or not, “frequently and individually.” In this connection may be mentioned a “Memorandum relative to Ophthalmia of New-born Children,” in which the Board requested medical officers to give each nurse or midwife acting under their directions such written instructions as they might deem necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject. In 1882 the Central Authority refused to sanction any women’s committee; but by 1897 the guardians were urged to appoint women’s committees for the supervision of the women and children in the workhouse.

It is interesting to trace the growth of opinion with regard to the provision for the children of means of enjoyment. For half a century after 1834 the Central Authority allowed no toys whatever for all its tens of thousands of indoor children of all ages. An auditor in 1883 disallowed sums spent on toys for sick children, and Mr. Hibbert was questioned in Parliament. He said “there have been similar disallowances previously, and the Local Government Board, while relieving the persons surcharged of their liability, have held that expenditure of this character should be defrayed by private liberality, rather than out of rates compulsorily levied.” The disallowances had therefore hitherto been confirmed, the payments being thus decided to be actually illegal. “The subject,” continued Mr. Hibbert, “had been considered in connection with the recent surcharge, and it is proposed to hold that the expenditure was within the legal powers of the guardians, and the auditor will be communicated with, with a view to a reversal of his decision.” It is not clear which of these conflicting decisions of the Central Authority was in accordance with law.

In 1891 the Board wrote: “The supply of illustrated books and periodicals of children is especially desirable. Admirable publications of this class can now be obtained at a very small cost, and where it appears to be necessary an expenditure by the guardians for this purpose should, in the Board’s opinion, be urged upon them. The question of the provision of bats, balls, skipping-ropes, etc., for the children and toys for the infants, is also one which the Board are desirous should receive the attention of the inspectors on the occasion of their inspections of the workhouses.”

“Special care should be taken that a sufficient part of each day is set apart for recreation only, and that the children should be allowed to take exercise frequently outside the workhouse premises, and that they should be encouraged in healthy games of all sorts.” The guardians were allowed to take girls from the Forest Gate Schools to see the sights of London, provided the places visited were approved by the school inspector, and also to pay a donation to the funds of a Band of Hope, when the Poor Law children were allowed to share in the work of the society.

In recent years, we see the inspectorate urging that even children of tender years ought not to live in the workhouse. This is a new idea which has not yet received more formal endorsement. As children under three may not, by the Central Authority’s own order of 10th February 1899, be sent to a separate Poor Law school, there is as yet no place for them but the workhouse. “Nothing has been said,” observed Mr. Jenner Fust, in 1901, “about the nursery children, at present retained at the workhouse till three years old, or even more, though the case of these requires attention as much as that of the older ones. They are almost always largely under the care of inmates, and the conditions are seldom improved even when these inmates are their own mothers…. I cannot but think that nursery homes with trained nurses as foster-mothers should form part of the equipment of all cottage homes, or, if a separate receiving home be established, the nursery children might conveniently be placed there, the removal from the workhouse not being delayed beyond the period when a child is able to walk.”

With regard to the education of the older workhouse children the Central Authority has changed its policy. It does not actually forbid the guardians to arrange for a school within the workhouse, which was the policy of 1850. But the plan now favoured is to send them out to the public elementary schools, as is also done when they are placed in scattered homes. At first the Central Authority only sanctioned this course with reluctance, only when the number of such children was small, and with special recommendations as to the appointment of officers to supervise the children out of school hours and impart industrial training. In the case of one union, they “urged the guardians to reconsider the question, with a view to the appointment either of a caretaker of the children or a porter, who could give that attention to the boys when in the workhouse which was of such importance to their future welfare.” Later, perhaps, when the principle of paid “caretakers” had become more fully accepted, the Central Authority gave the system much more hearty support, noted its prevalence with satisfaction, and considered it highly desirable that children in Poor Law establishments should thus be given opportunities of mixing with other children.

When there is a choice of elementary schools, each child should be sent to the one conducted according to its own religious creed, and it was also recommended that the children should be sent out to Sunday schools of their own denomination. This denomination is ordinarily that of the child’s parents, but if the religion is not known, he is to be brought up in the Church of England: if the father changes his creed, that of the child changes also.

While in the workhouse the children are to receive instruction in industrial and manual work, but the Board strongly resisted proposals for sending them out to work in factories.

Subject to these conditions, the 21,526 children living in the workhouse remain there to the knowledge and with the sanction of the Central Authority-at least, this is what the guardians contend, and, so far as we can discover, there is no order, circular, or minute to the contrary.

Meanwhile the guardians are pressed to bestow on them an amount of salaried care and expensive attention that surprises the more old-fashioned among them, who have not yet quite abandoned the principle of “less eligibility.” “One matter of some interest,” says Mr. Baldwyn Fleming in 1902, “is the curious reluctance displayed by country guardians to have the children’s teeth cared for.” The argument used is, “The ratepayers do not take their children to the dentist, and why should we do so?” (in the case of the indoor Poor Law children.)

(iv.) The Education of the Indoor Pauper Child

Down to 1897 the Central Authority had contemplated and recognised in its orders and circulars that the pauper children would spend only about half the school time in ordinary school subjects, the other half being devoted to what was euphemistically called “industrial training.” This meant, in practice, the employment of the children in domestic work, gardening, mending clothes or boots, and so on, the persons selected as “industrial trainers” not being required to have any pedagogic qualifications or power to teach, and being paid in fact only at workmen’s rates. In 1897, the rapid abandonment of the half-time system outside the workhouse led to a great advance. By the Order of that year, which governs all Poor Law schools, whether they are in workhouses or district or separate schools, the half-time system is greatly discouraged. Industrial training takes a subordinate place. The Order fixes the number of hours during which the children are to be under school instruction, and provides for a ten minutes’ rest in every attendance of two hours or more, limits the number of hours which may be occupied in manual or industrial work, and provides for one whole holiday or two half-holidays in each week, in addition to allowing six weeks’ holidays in the year if the guardians choose to grant it. One object of the Order was to secure that children should not be unduly pressed with manual or industrial work in addition to the school instruction. The religious teaching required by any Orders in force is to be given in addition to the school hours. In 1877 it had been ordered that any time which might be devoted to drill or industrial training, other than a reasonable time for needlework, in the case of girls, should not be included in the time prescribed for attendance. The present Order, in more general terms, allows school instruction to include “any of the subjects for which grants may be made under the Code of Regulations of the Education Department, for the time being in force, except cookery, laundry work, dairy work, or cottage gardening.” Of the time allowed for needlework, not more than one-third is to be spent in mending; the rest is to be occupied in plain needlework, knitting, and cutting out and making garments. When children attend school for half-time, it is preferred that they shall receive the school instruction in the morning, and the industrial training in the afternoon. There is now no superior limit to the education that may be provided for a pauper child within the proper ages. As early as 1878 payment for the attendance of the workhouse girls at a school of cookery was held to be legal. Guardians are allowed to pay the fees for the instruction of the children at a technical institute when they see fit to do so, quite irrespective of whether or not the children of the poorest independent labourer can get such advantages.

It may be noted that a Special Order of 30th April 1887 (not mentioned in the Annual Reports, or otherwise communicated to boards of guardians) enables the Forest Gate District School to allow a class of the elder girls to go out and buy their food, spending not more than 3s. 6d. a week each, and prepare it for their own consumption, so as to get some practical experience of ordinary life. By another Order of 5th August 1889, the children in this one school are allowed to buy their own outfits (up to ?3 10s.). We do not find that the Central Authority has yet made these privileges general, nor extended them to any other indoor pauper children.

On 1st April 1904, the responsibility for the inspection of the education of the Poor Law Schools, and of pauper children in certified schools, was transferred to the Board of Education thus reverting to the policy prior to 1863.

(v.) Boarding-out

The boarding-out system was in 1871 still on its trial, having been authorised for scarcely a year, and the Central Authority was very guarded in expressing any opinion on its merits; it gradually won favour, but while mildly encouraging it the Central Authority would do nothing to force its growth. In 1900 it was referred to as one method of removing children from the workhouse, but it was never thought likely to become a practical means for dealing with the mass of pauper children, as a substitute either for ordinary outdoor relief or for Poor Law schools.

Boarding-out beyond the union had been first regulated by the Order of 25th November 1870. In 1877 it was found that boarding-out within the union was being largely practised, it being, as the Central Authority had itself held, legally only ordinary out-relief, requiring no sanction. This also was then regulated by a General Order.Both these Orders were re-issued with slight modifications in 1889, the former to every union in the country, the latter to all but the most populous town unions. Again, in 1905, the Order for boarding-out beyond the union was slightly altered and re-issued.

The operation of these Orders was limited to certain classes of children; in 1877 to those deserted by their parents, or whose parents were dead, undergoing penal servitude, suffering from mental disease, or out of England; by the Orders of 1889, children whose parents were permanently bedridden or disabled were added to the list; and in 1905 children adopted by the guardians were formally included, as such children could previously only be boarded out if they were also orphan or deserted according to the definition. The Central Authority refused its sanction to a proposal to board out the illegitimate children of able-bodied women in the workhouse. It was twice decided that when out-relief is given to a child living with a person not legally liable for its support, such child must be considered as boarded out. There is no age limit for boarding-out within the union, but a child may not be first boarded out beyond the union under two, nor when over ten, unless in the same home with a brother or sister under that age.

In view of this gradual adoption of the boarding-out system as a permanent form of the treatment of children under the Poor Law, it is instructive to compare the requirements which the Central Authority makes to ensure the proper maintenance of the boarded-out children with the policy just described in respect of the children on ordinary outdoor relief.

The various Orders all lay practically the same duties on the foster-parent. He is to sign an undertaking that: “He will bring up the child as one of his own children, and provide the child with proper food, lodging and washing, and endeavour to train the child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry, as well as in suitable domestic and outdoor work, so far as may be consistent with the law; that he will take care that the child shall attend duly at church or chapel according to the religious creed to which the child belongs, and shall attend school according to the provisions of the law for the time being; that he will provide for the proper repair and renewal of the child’s clothing, and that in case of the child’s illness he will forthwith report such illness to the guardians and to the boarding-out committee; and that he will at all times permit the child to be visited and the house to be inspected by any member of the boarding-out committee, and by any person specially appointed for that purpose by the guardians or by the Local Government Board. The undertaking shall also contain an engagement on the part of the foster-parent that he will, upon the demand of a person duly authorised in writing by the boarding-out committee, or by the guardians, give up possession of the child.” The 1905 undertaking is slightly different in terms, the chief variation being an omission of the reference t

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also

Children and the Poor Law Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: It was with regard to children that the policy of the Central Authority in this period made the greatest advance. This, however, applies chiefly to the 40,000 children who were being relieved in institutions. With regard to the children being maintained on outdoor relief-who were at least five times as numerous-we do not find that the Central Authority in this period took any cognisance of their condition, except to some small extent with regard to their schooling. Even this was a new feature. In 1844, as already mentioned, the Central Authority had expressly refused to allow 2d. a week to be paid for the schooling of such a child, or even to permit that sum to be added to the outdoor relief to the parent with the same object. This decision was emphasised by a Circular in 1847, laying down that pauper children living at home were not to be educated at the expense of the poor rate. For years the Manchester Board of Guardians, under the leadership of Mr. Hodgson, had tried to get some of their outdoor pauper children to school, the guardians actually maintaining a primitive day school of their own for this purpose. The Central Authority refused to sanction this experiment, forbade its extension, questioned the lawfulness of the guardians’ action, and between 1850 and 1855 seems always to have been complaining about it. In 1855, however, Parliament reversed the policy of non-responsibility for outdoor pauper children, so far as to allow the boards of guardians, if they chose, to pay for the schooling of such children between the ages of four and sixteen. They were, however, expressly forbidden to make it a condition of relief that the child should attend school, for fear of exciting religious jealousies, all schools being then denominational. The Central Authority, in transmitting this statute (“Denison’s Act”) to the boards of guardians, laid stress on its permissive character. No instructions or suggestions were given as to the kind of school to be chosen, though if the guardians in their exercise of their discretion did pay the fees of any children, they were to satisfy themselves of their due attendance. But it trusted that “it will be soon brought into extensive operation,” and presently 3986 out of the 200,000 outdoor pauper children were at school. Special efforts were made during the Lancashire cotton famine to get the Act carried out, and gradually more of the boards of guardians adopted the policy. In 1870 the Elementary Education Act made education compulsory over a large part of the country, and authorised boards of guardians not only to pay fees, but also to make attendance at school a condition of relief. This, however, came as part of the educational policy of Parliament, not as part of the Poor Law policy of the Central Authority. So far as these children were concerned (though nominal fees continued to be paid out of the poor rate until 1891), the provision of schooling became merged in the general communistic provision of schooling for the whole population. By this beginning of communistic provision of education for the whole population (completed by the Free Education Act of 1891), the Poor Law authorities were enabled to escape-so far as education was concerned-from the embarrassing dilemma of either placing the pauper child in a position of vantage, or of deliberately bringing up the quarter of a million pauper children in a state of ignorance similar to that of the children of the poorest independent labourer prior to 1870. In respect of everything but education the problem remained. So far as regards the couple of hundred thousand children maintained on outdoor relief, the Central Authority left the boards of guardians without advice on this dilemma.

Passing now to the 40,000 children in Poor Law institutions, we have described how, between 1834 and 1847, the Central Authority, in disregard of the recommendations of the 1834 Report, had adopted the policy of having one common workhouse for each union, under a single head, and with an almost identical regimen for all classes of inmates. It was necessarily incidental to the policy of the Outdoor Relief Prohibitory Order which was then widely prevalent, that the wife and children of the destitute man should be relieved only in the workhouse. These institutions came, therefore, to be the homes and places of education of not only orphans and foundlings, but also of tens of thousands of other children, who were often immured in them from birth until they could be placed out in service. Apparently the idea of one general workhouse for each union, under one uniform discipline, was too deeply rooted in the Poor Law Commissioners to allow of any provision being made for children in the Orders concerning workhouse management. No provision was made for the children going out for walks or games or play. No Order required the guardians to appoint a qualified schoolmaster, or, indeed, any teacher at all, or to buy any school-books. Year after year the returns from many unions continue to state “No teachers in workhouse,” without evoking from the Central Authority any compulsory Order.

It is to the credit of the new Poor Law Board that it at once admitted that the much-vaunted general workhouse system was, so far as the children were concerned, simply manufacturing paupers. “Too many of those brought up in the workhouse,” said Mr. Charles Buller in 1848, “were marked by a tendency to regard the workhouse as their natural and proper home…. They had been accustomed to the workhouse from their earliest infancy and … to the confinement, … and when they became adults there was nothing to deter them from entering it.” The remedy now proposed was the removal of all children from the workhouses to separate Poor Law schools, and their education, irrespective of cost, in such a way “as may best tend to raise them from the class of paupers to that of independent labourers and artisans.” To attain this end the Central Authority secured another statute in amendment of the hitherto abortive Act of 1844, permitting the establishment of “district schools” by combinations of unions. But what enabled this policy to be begun in the teeth of persistent opposition was a terrible outbreak of cholera at Mr. Drouet’s establishment at Tooting, where the pauper children of many parishes had continued (as a survival of the old Poor Law, not yet interfered with by the Central Authority) to be “farmed out.”

In the course of the same year the Central Authority succeeded in forming half-a-dozen school districts, and approved the establishment of a gigantic boarding-school for each of them, accommodating 800, and even 1000 children. The General Order issued in 1849 for the government of these “district schools” did not prescribe the details of administration so precisely as did the General Consolidated Order of 1847; and much latitude was left to the enterprise of the governing body. Against the formation of these school districts the boards of guardians successfully rebelled, much preferring to have a separate school for each union, and outside London this was the system generally adopted by the more populous unions. These separate schools, which were in all cases distinct from the workhouse, were regulated by special Orders, providing in similar general terms for the elements of good administration, but also leaving much to the discretion of the guardians. The Central Authority now pressed the policy of separate schools on the boards of guardians at every opportunity. In 1856, for instance, we find it saying to the Holborn Guardians that it cannot “too strongly urge upon the guardians the importance of the children being so brought up as to preserve them, as far as possible, free from the habits and associations contracted in a workhouse; and of their receiving such instruction as will fit them to earn their own livelihood. These objects will be best secured by the removal of the children to a separate school.” The Central Authority made useful suggestions, and it also encouraged improvements by laudatory description of the best schools in the Official Circular and the Annual Reports. When it was objected by some boards of guardians that to teach writing and arithmetic to the pauper children was to give them advantages superior to those of the children of the independent labourer, the Central Authority replied that the provision of a good education for the children was not likely to encourage voluntary pauperism in the parents, and therefore there was no need to apply the principle of less eligibility in this case.

On the other hand, it has to be recorded that there were apparently opposing influences at work, as the Norwich Board of Guardians found to its cost in 1854. That board had in 1846, apparently of its own accord, begun a most interesting experiment. As the workhouse was old and overcrowded, and obviously contaminating to the hundreds of children it contained, separate “Boys’ and Girls’ Homes” were established, away from the workhouse and under separate management. At these early types of Poor Law schools the children received both scholastic and industrial training. Their special feature was, however, that the boys of sufficient age were placed out in situations in the town, continuing to use the institution as their home, and contributing the wages that they earned towards the cost of their maintenance. The Norwich Guardians had found, as others have done since, that the old style of indoor apprenticeship was nearly extinct. They had resorted to what they called “outdoor apprenticeship.” “In nineteen cases out of twenty the apprentices bound out … have been outdoor apprentices and have resided with their parents, and received certain weekly allowances. Masters will not consent to take into their houses pauper apprentices.” The Central Authority had objected to this, and had insisted on enforcing the usual apprenticeship order. Apparently it was not found possible to place boys out on this obsolete system, and the plan was adopted of getting the boys situations at wages, low at first, and not for some years amounting to enough fully to maintain them. This experiment had been undertaken with the full knowledge of the Poor Law inspectors, who constantly visited the homes, and who expressed themselves in high praise of their success, and it had even been specially described in print, with great commendation, by the inspector of pauper schools. Indeed, the eighty-seven boys who had already passed out of the homes (presumably as soon as their wages were big enough to keep them) were, with fewer than a dozen exceptions, well launched in the world and doing well. In 1854, however, after eight years, the Central Authority intimated that the whole expenditure on the homes was illegal, as being unauthorised, and it was in fact disallowed. It added that, whilst it was prepared to sanction the continuance of the homes as mere schools, it could not permit them to be used as homes for the elder boys who went out to work. The grounds on which this decision was arrived at are not clear. In one place it is stated that the Poor Law Board “conceive it to be unjust to the children of the independent poor,” presumably unjust to give the pauper boys such advantages. In another place it is stated that the Poor Law Board had only been induced to permit the homes temporarily on the understanding that they were self-supporting-a contention hardly consistent with that of their illegality-whereas the boys who went out to work proved to cost something to the rates, though admittedly less than they would have cost in the workhouse. In a third place it is pointed out that the projected new workhouse will amply accommodate all the children, so that the homes will be unnecessary even as schools-an argument which seems inconsistent with the general policy of the Poor Law Board, unless we are to infer that it wanted only district schools by combinations of unions. We may note, as a final hint of the uncertainty that prevailed, that, after three years’ correspondence, the Poor Law inspector advised the guardians to ask the Central Authority to sanction temporarily the continuance of the homes, as “it is quite possible … that within the next two years the Legislature may resolve on communicating greater vitality to the provisions for the establishment of district schools.” He had told the clerk to the guardians verbally that it was probable that Parliament would make it compulsory to provide for pauper children in establishments apart from workhouses, but that he saw “with regret how strongly different views are pressed” in regard to these homes; and that the guardians would meanwhile do well to delay proceeding with any but the adults’ wards of the new workhouse.

No such legislation as was thus foreshadowed took place, but the policy of removing the children from the workhouses was meanwhile incidentally promoted by an Act of 1849, which enabled use to be made of any establishment in which paupers were maintained by contract “for the education of any poor children therein.”Similarly the various Industrial Schools Acts opened up another class of schools to pauper children. Finally, the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1869 enabled training ships to be established by school districts and the Metropolitan Asylums Board for the education of pauper boys for the sea service. Already by 1856 it was reported with satisfaction that 78 per cent of the children under boards of guardians in the Metropolis were in separate schools-statistics, however, which continued to ignore the much larger number of children on outdoor relief, of whose existence the Central Authority only gradually became aware.

During the next twenty years we see this policy of separate boarding schools for such of the Poor Law children as were on indoor relief being constantly pressed on boards of guardians. The erection of these costly barrack schools, which were each regulated by a separate Special Order, differing slightly from school to school, the steady improvement in their accommodation and diet, and the continuous rise in the educational standard attained, which is the great feature of the ensuing period (though in accordance with the recommendations of the 1834 Report), marks a definite abandonment, as regards the children, of the principle that the condition of the pauper should always be less eligible than that of the lowest class of independent labourer. But although in the course of the period 1847-71, in the Metropolis and various large towns, the greater number of the boys and girls between five and fourteen were removed from the workhouses to these “barrack schools” and similar institutions, such schools were not made compulsory; the retention of children in the workhouse was not forbidden, and in hundreds of unions they remained unaffected by the new policy of the Central Authority, which apparently felt unable to require the boards of guardians to adopt it. Even when the bulk of the children were placed in separate schools, there were always some in the workhouse itself; and it is remarkable that the Central Authority made no attempt to modify for these the provisions of the General Consolidated Order of 1847, the effect of which upon the workhouse administration of the period we have already described.

Meanwhile the “workhouse schools” continued to improve very slowly in educational efficiency. The policy of the Central Authority was apparently to develop industrial training-agricultural work, the simpler handicrafts, and domestic service-on the model of the “Quatt School” in Shropshire. Whether or not this industrial work militated against more intellectual accomplishments is a moot point, but we hear of “the reports of ‘the stagnant dulness of workhouse education’ which annually proceed from Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools.”

Whether or not from a certain divergence of aim between the departments, the connection was in 1863 severed, and the Poor Law Board thenceforward had its own inspectors of Poor Law Schools, whose criticisms and complaints, all in favour of the large district schools as compared with the single union school, appear from 1867 onward in the Annual Reports.

At the very end of the period we may note the beginning of a reaction against the “barrack schools.” It was pointed out by those acquainted with the Scottish system of boarding-out, as well as by persons experienced in English Poor Law administration, that these expensive boarding schools were not answering so well as their admirers claimed, especially as regards the girls. During 1866-9 the alternative of “boarding-out” children in private families at 4s. a week (now 5s.) was warmly discussed, and experimentally adopted in a few places. In 1869 the Central Authority so far yielded to the criticisms made upon these institutions as to permit, under elaborate restrictions and safeguards, the “boarding-out,” in families beyond the limits of the union, of the comparatively small class of children who were actually or practically orphans. In these cases all idea of making the condition of the pauper child less eligible than that of the lowest independent labourer was definitely abandoned. The whole concern of the Central Authority was to see that the provision for the boarded-out child was good and complete. Far from being assimilated to the children of the lowest independent labourers, the boarded-out children were only to be entrusted to specially selected families superior to the lowest, who undertook to bring them up as their own, to provide proper food, clothing and washing, to train them in good habits as well as in suitable domestic and industrial work, and to make them regularly attend school and place of worship. For all this the foster parents were to receive with each child a sum three or four times as great as was, with the sanction of the Central Authority, commonly allowed for the maintenance of each of the couple of hundred thousand children at that date on outdoor relief; and which (as Professor Fawcett vainly objected) was far in excess of what the ordinary labourer could afford to expend on his own children. “A plan,” observed Mr. Fowle, “which cannot be defended on any sound principles of Poor Law.” “It is indeed impossible,” says Mr. Mackay in this connection, “to deny that apparently every provision for pauper children may be regarded as a contravention of this rule…. Professor Fawcett’s … argument has been tacitly neglected.”

Children and the Local Government Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: (i.) On Outdoor Relief

There seems to have been, so far as regards children, no explicit change in policy in 1871. To take first the 336,870 children under sixteen who were on outdoor relief on 1st January 1871-almost exactly one-third of the aggregate pauperism-we see continued the same ignoring of their general condition. We do not find that the inspectors ever investigated what was happening to these children or that the Central Authority ever made any official inquiry, still less issued any order, on the subject. The general policy of restricting outdoor relief, which we have sufficiently described, had incidentally the effect, in the course of twenty years, of reducing the number of children on outdoor relief by nearly one-half.

On one point, indeed, that of education, as we have seen, Parliament had explicitly over-ridden the implied contention that the Poor Law Authorities had no responsibility for the welfare of the children on outdoor relief. The policy of Denison’s Act of 1855, which had been comparatively little acted upon, was extended in 1873 so as to make it compulsory on boards of guardians to see that such children between five and thirteen were regularly at school. The guardians were even required to pay the school fees for children-even illegitimate children-who were not paupers, if they needed this, and the parents did not thereby become paupers.We see the Central Authority communicating these decisions of the Legislature without comment, and the boards of guardians carrying them out as they chose;sometimes even taking it upon themselves to petition the Education Department to relax the requirement of schooling after twelve, as being hard on the parent, useless to the child, and leading to “much necessary work being left undone,” especially “the eradication of pernicious weeds.”

We may see further imposition of responsibility on the boards of guardians for the well-being of the children of the poor, in the series of Acts for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Already in 1868 boards of guardians had been expressly directed by statute to institute proceedings against parents who neglected their children.In 1888 the Central Authority reminded the guardians of the power they had thus had for twenty years, without often making use of it. In 1889 Parliament enacted that any person having the custody of a child under sixteen who “wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes such child, or causes or procures such child to be ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to its health, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour,” and that the guardians might, “out of the funds under their control, pay the reasonable costs and expenses of any proceedings” which they direct to be taken. They were not definitely required to take such proceedings, but Parliament laid the duty upon them to do so. The Act of 1894 made the provisions more explicit, and defined injury to health so as to include “injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement.”

These statutes were applicable, among others, to the 170,000 children on outdoor relief, many of whom were plainly underfed, housed in insanitary conditions, half-clothed, and generally treated in a manner “likely to cause injury” to their health; but we do not find that the boards of guardians realised the great increase of power and responsibility thus entrusted to them. The Central Authority, which observed mildly that Parliament evidently meant the guardians to institute proceedings, did not point out to them the applicability of the new statutes to the children on outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians, so far as we can ascertain, seldom or never acted on them. In 1904, accordingly, the power to pay the expenses of prosecution was transferred to county and borough authorities, so that the guardians ceased to be responsible for taking proceedings; but the workhouse remains a “place of safety” to which a constable or other person authorised by a Justice may take a child, the guardians are required to provide for the reception of any child so brought to the workhouse, and the master is bound to admit such child if there is sufficient accommodation.

After 1890 we find the responsibility of the Poor Law authorities for all the outdoor paupers beginning to be recognised by the inspectorate. “The absolute responsibility of the guardians for the material well-being of every one who is in receipt of outdoor relief,” said Mr. Davy in 1893, had been officially recognised by the District Nurses Order, to which we shall recur. “If any relief at all is given to an applicant,” Mr. Davy laid it down, “it is the plain duty of the guardians to take precautions to insure that … the pauper is sufficiently fed, clothed, and lodged.” This was notoriously not the case in many unions, the children especially being in an evil plight. “In many unions,” said Mr. Baldwyn Fleming, in 1891, “the relieving officer and the inspector of nuisances could show guardians cases … where large families are living in cottages too small for them, and the accommodation is in almost every respect unsatisfactory, where the children have little but rags to cover them by day or night, where school attendance is avoided to the utmost, where the feeding only just escapes starvation, where the physical and moral education of the children are equally impracticable, where infant life is one constant struggle with misery and privation.” The demoralising association of the outdoor pauper children with the pay-station was specially denounced by another inspector. “What,” he said, “is the sense, I would ask-I do ask in board rooms-of all this trouble and outlay to put the children into cottage homes or scattered homes, to keep them, in fact, altogether away from the workhouse, if while doing all this the very same authority permit the precisely similar children of the outdoor poor to haunt the pay-stations, to hang about workhouse gates, or to sit mixed up in waiting-rooms with adult paupers…. The children, early in life, often at times when they ought to be at school, have their eyes opened to the facility with which by exaggerating your impecunious condition, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week can be got without the labour of earning it…. The master of one of the board schools had written … to complain that three children systematically were kept from school on a particular day of the week for the purpose of drawing relief due to their parents.”

We cannot find, however, any order, minute, or circular explicitly taking official cognisance of the condition of these children (except in respect of the statutory requirement of school attendance); nor do the boards of guardians seem to have taken any trouble to inquire into their condition. In 1901 the Central Authority had reported to it, at its special request (in connection with the adequacy of the amount granted, especially for the aged), the amounts usually given in outdoor relief. In the majority of unions it must then have appeared that the amount allowed for the support of each child on outdoor relief was either the 1s. and one loaf per week, which had had the sanction of Mr. Corbett in 1869, or frequently 1s. 6d. per week. The Bradford Board of Guardians, however, if no other, reported that it allowed to deserving widows with dependent children 4s. for the first child, 3s. for the second, and 2s. for each additional child (besides 5s. for the mother herself). We do not find that any official view has been expressed as to this diversity.

At the very end of the period we find Parliament suddenly insisting on the responsibility of the boards of guardians for the condition, not only of the children on outdoor relief, but of all children in so far as sufficiency of food is concerned. By the Act of 1906 special provision is made for children at school who are in need of food. This Act, embodied in a General Order, was communicated to boards of guardians in a circular which explains the exact degree of responsibility which, in the opinion of the Central Authority, Parliament has thereby imposed on them. A parent is bound to supply his children with necessary food, and if he is unable to do so should apply to the guardians for help. When a father, being able to supply food, neglects to do so, or being unable neglects to apply to the guardians, so that the child is underfed, a “special application” on behalf of the child may be made to the guardians or relieving officer “by the managers, or by a teacher duly empowered by the managers, of a public elementary school, or by an officer duly empowered by the local education authority.” If the food is urgently needed it is to be supplied at once, as a loan to the father, and he is to be informed as soon as possible that it has been so given. When there is no such urgency, the father is to be informed that food will be supplied before it is given, that he may have the opportunity of providing it himself; and the guardians are to inquire whether the need is due to habitual neglect; if it is so, the relief shall (and in any case it may) be given on loan.

Whenever relief under this order is given on loan, the guardians are obliged to take proceedings for its recovery, unless the Local Government Board specially approves of their not doing so, which approval would only be obtainable in very special circumstances, e.g. if it were obviously impossible to recover the amount. It is held to be particularly important that these proceedings should always be taken, as they are the only means of safeguarding against abuse, for the rule that, as a condition of relief, the able-bodied father must enter the workhouse or be set to work by the guardians is specially abrogated in cases under this order, as being inapplicable to them. The order does not apply to any child who is blind or deaf and dumb, nor in the case of any relative except the father, nor if the child is not resident with the father. Relief is not to be ordered on a “special application” for a longer period than one month. “Where a special application is renewed within a short time, say six months, after the expiration of the period for which the relief has been given, and further relief has to be allowed, or where within this period special application is made and relief is given in respect of some other member of the same family, and the cause of the application is the habitual neglect of the father to provide food, the Board think that the guardians should consider whether the case is one in which proceedings could be taken against the father, either under the Vagrancy Act 1824, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904.”

Finally, the Board “trust that the boards of guardians, particularly those of populous unions in which cases of underfed children more frequently occur, will endeavour to co-operate with the local education authorities in dealing with really necessitous cases, whilst exercising due discrimination so as to avoid the pauperisation and consequent disfranchisement of parents who ought not to be brought under the Poor Law.”

The number of outdoor pauper children is now slightly more than in 1892, there being on 1st January 1906, 179,870 such, 96,804 being widows’ children, 72,721 children with both parents or with fathers only, and 10,345 having no parents.

Turning now to the much smaller number of children in Poor Law institutions, of whom there were on January 1st 1871, 55,832 (together with a very small number “boarded out”), we see a similar continuity of policy in the Central Authority, but in these cases it is continuity in the policy of a constant enlargement of responsibility, and of a steady improvement in the provision.

(ii.) In Poor Law Schools

The main pre-occupation of the Central Authority since 1871, so far as children are concerned, has been the increase, progressive improvement, and novel development of the Poor Law school entirely removed from the workhouse. The recommendations and incitements to boards of guardians to remove from the workhouse the healthy children of school age are incessant down to 1900. Such children are ordinarily accommodated in Poor Law schools, either district schools, where these exist, or much more frequently “separated” or “workhouse schools,” which may be of the old aggregated type, or “cottage homes” or “scattered homes.” The dramatic change from the views of 1850 is the abandonment of the “district school.” The aggregated type, held in such esteem previously to 1871, fell gradually into disfavour, and is now known as the “barrack school.” Already in 1871 Mr. Corbett was criticising these schools as being far too large (as well as too indiscriminate in the kind of children admitted) to be really successful. After repeated outbreaks of malignant ophthalmia, and continued experience of the mental draw-backs, especially of the large girls’ schools, the Central Authority abandoned its policy, and presently came to decline to sanction proposals which would have the effect of “extending the large schools in the Metropolis and … most readily entertain any proposals for applying to other purposes any of these large buildings, subject to other provision of a suitable character being made for the children.” The barrack school system grew up out of the five Metropolitan school districts; these also therefore shared in the condemnation, and in 1899 two had been dissolved.

A “separate school” belonging to a single union or separate parish would naturally be much smaller than a district school, but nothing is said as to the merits or demerits of an aggregated school of moderate size. The method which seems to have won the approval of the Central Authority is that of “cottage homes,” or the “block system,” under which children are grouped in bodies of not more than twenty-five or thirty in separate houses on a common ground of considerable acreage, and with suitable common buildings, such as baths, chapels, etc., under the supervision, not only of “house-mothers,” but also of a superintendent of the whole. Since 1894 the Board have constantly approved the erection of schools on this plan; they always require that the cottage homes should be entirely separated from the workhouse. The outstanding feature of this system is the great expense.

An alternative plan is that of “scattered homes,” i.e. cottages taken here and there throughout the union, not adjacent to each other, wherein the children live under the care of matrons or foster parents, and whence they attend the public elementary schools. In some cases the results of this system have been good, but the Central Authority received reports of certain cases of bad management, which made it cautious in regard to other proposals in that direction. The adoption of the system in Camberwell was sanctioned on the conditions that the guardians could satisfy the Central Authority that they could get proper houses for the scattered homes, and also that they could be quite sure of having an adequate system of inspection.

Notwithstanding the great expense of these highly elaborated boarding-schools for the indoor pauper boys and girls-an expense reaching between ?100 and ?200 capital, and between ?30 and ?50 annual maintenance, for each child-we see the Central Authority constantly pressing for their multiplication. The very idea of “less eligibility” has been forgotten by the inspectors. To quote one of them in 1902: “The number and nature of obstacles (to the removal of children from the workhouse) conjured up in the minds of many of the country guardians is,” he says, “quite surprising. One idea, which proves a great stumbling-block, is that the children will be put in a position above their deserts, and above that of the children living in their own homes with their parents.”

On 1st January 1906, the total number of children in “district or separate schools” was no more than 12,393, whilst in “cottage and other homes” there were 14,590; and 11,368 were in other institutions (mostly certified industrial schools, conducted by philanthropic committees not for profit).

(iii.) The Workhouse Children

Notwithstanding the desire of the Central Authority to remove the children from the workhouses, there remained on 1st January 1906 no fewer than 21,526 in these institutions. The Central Authority has, for instance, never objected to the retention in workhouses of children of tender years, or of children of any age, in the interval before they can be sent to school. In 1889, indeed, it was especially forbidden to send children to separate schools under the age of three. Though no alteration has been made in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, by which the internal economy of the workhouse is professedly governed, the Central Authority laid it down in 1895 that “in every workhouse in which there are several children too young to attend school, a separate nursery-dry, spacious, light, and well ventilated-should be provided, and should be suitably furnished.”

The children are always to be under the supervision of paid officers, a recommendation made in the days of the Poor Law Board, but still up to 1895 frequently urged-showing that at any rate till then it had not been effectively insisted on. Even in that year the Board had to write: “In no case should the care of young children be entrusted to inferior or weak-minded inmates”-a qualification which weakens the force of the prohibition of the use of paupers at all. “Unless young children are placed under responsible supervision they cannot be said to be ‘properly taken care of'”; and again, more generally, “all children in workhouses should be under the charge of officers, either industrial trainers or caretakers, and should not be left to the charge of adult paupers.” The medical officer is responsible for the children’s health, and with a view to the prevention of disease he is expected to inspect them, whether they are ill or not, “frequently and individually.” In this connection may be mentioned a “Memorandum relative to Ophthalmia of New-born Children,” in which the Board requested medical officers to give each nurse or midwife acting under their directions such written instructions as they might deem necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject. In 1882 the Central Authority refused to sanction any women’s committee; but by 1897 the guardians were urged to appoint women’s committees for the supervision of the women and children in the workhouse.

It is interesting to trace the growth of opinion with regard to the provision for the children of means of enjoyment. For half a century after 1834 the Central Authority allowed no toys whatever for all its tens of thousands of indoor children of all ages. An auditor in 1883 disallowed sums spent on toys for sick children, and Mr. Hibbert was questioned in Parliament. He said “there have been similar disallowances previously, and the Local Government Board, while relieving the persons surcharged of their liability, have held that expenditure of this character should be defrayed by private liberality, rather than out of rates compulsorily levied.” The disallowances had therefore hitherto been confirmed, the payments being thus decided to be actually illegal. “The subject,” continued Mr. Hibbert, “had been considered in connection with the recent surcharge, and it is proposed to hold that the expenditure was within the legal powers of the guardians, and the auditor will be communicated with, with a view to a reversal of his decision.” It is not clear which of these conflicting decisions of the Central Authority was in accordance with law.

In 1891 the Board wrote: “The supply of illustrated books and periodicals of children is especially desirable. Admirable publications of this class can now be obtained at a very small cost, and where it appears to be necessary an expenditure by the guardians for this purpose should, in the Board’s opinion, be urged upon them. The question of the provision of bats, balls, skipping-ropes, etc., for the children and toys for the infants, is also one which the Board are desirous should receive the attention of the inspectors on the occasion of their inspections of the workhouses.”

“Special care should be taken that a sufficient part of each day is set apart for recreation only, and that the children should be allowed to take exercise frequently outside the workhouse premises, and that they should be encouraged in healthy games of all sorts.” The guardians were allowed to take girls from the Forest Gate Schools to see the sights of London, provided the places visited were approved by the school inspector, and also to pay a donation to the funds of a Band of Hope, when the Poor Law children were allowed to share in the work of the society.

In recent years, we see the inspectorate urging that even children of tender years ought not to live in the workhouse. This is a new idea which has not yet received more formal endorsement. As children under three may not, by the Central Authority’s own order of 10th February 1899, be sent to a separate Poor Law school, there is as yet no place for them but the workhouse. “Nothing has been said,” observed Mr. Jenner Fust, in 1901, “about the nursery children, at present retained at the workhouse till three years old, or even more, though the case of these requires attention as much as that of the older ones. They are almost always largely under the care of inmates, and the conditions are seldom improved even when these inmates are their own mothers…. I cannot but think that nursery homes with trained nurses as foster-mothers should form part of the equipment of all cottage homes, or, if a separate receiving home be established, the nursery children might conveniently be placed there, the removal from the workhouse not being delayed beyond the period when a child is able to walk.”

With regard to the education of the older workhouse children the Central Authority has changed its policy. It does not actually forbid the guardians to arrange for a school within the workhouse, which was the policy of 1850. But the plan now favoured is to send them out to the public elementary schools, as is also done when they are placed in scattered homes. At first the Central Authority only sanctioned this course with reluctance, only when the number of such children was small, and with special recommendations as to the appointment of officers to supervise the children out of school hours and impart industrial training. In the case of one union, they “urged the guardians to reconsider the question, with a view to the appointment either of a caretaker of the children or a porter, who could give that attention to the boys when in the workhouse which was of such importance to their future welfare.” Later, perhaps, when the principle of paid “caretakers” had become more fully accepted, the Central Authority gave the system much more hearty support, noted its prevalence with satisfaction, and considered it highly desirable that children in Poor Law establishments should thus be given opportunities of mixing with other children.

When there is a choice of elementary schools, each child should be sent to the one conducted according to its own religious creed, and it was also recommended that the children should be sent out to Sunday schools of their own denomination. This denomination is ordinarily that of the child’s parents, but if the religion is not known, he is to be brought up in the Church of England: if the father changes his creed, that of the child changes also.

While in the workhouse the children are to receive instruction in industrial and manual work, but the Board strongly resisted proposals for sending them out to work in factories.

Subject to these conditions, the 21,526 children living in the workhouse remain there to the knowledge and with the sanction of the Central Authority-at least, this is what the guardians contend, and, so far as we can discover, there is no order, circular, or minute to the contrary.

Meanwhile the guardians are pressed to bestow on them an amount of salaried care and expensive attention that surprises the more old-fashioned among them, who have not yet quite abandoned the principle of “less eligibility.” “One matter of some interest,” says Mr. Baldwyn Fleming in 1902, “is the curious reluctance displayed by country guardians to have the children’s teeth cared for.” The argument used is, “The ratepayers do not take their children to the dentist, and why should we do so?” (in the case of the indoor Poor Law children.)

(iv.) The Education of the Indoor Pauper Child

Down to 1897 the Central Authority had contemplated and recognised in its orders and circulars that the pauper children would spend only about half the school time in ordinary school subjects, the other half being devoted to what was euphemistically called “industrial training.” This meant, in practice, the employment of the children in domestic work, gardening, mending clothes or boots, and so on, the persons selected as “industrial trainers” not being required to have any pedagogic qualifications or power to teach, and being paid in fact only at workmen’s rates. In 1897, the rapid abandonment of the half-time system outside the workhouse led to a great advance. By the Order of that year, which governs all Poor Law schools, whether they are in workhouses or district or separate schools, the half-time system is greatly discouraged. Industrial training takes a subordinate place. The Order fixes the number of hours during which the children are to be under school instruction, and provides for a ten minutes’ rest in every attendance of two hours or more, limits the number of hours which may be occupied in manual or industrial work, and provides for one whole holiday or two half-holidays in each week, in addition to allowing six weeks’ holidays in the year if the guardians choose to grant it. One object of the Order was to secure that children should not be unduly pressed with manual or industrial work in addition to the school instruction. The religious teaching required by any Orders in force is to be given in addition to the school hours. In 1877 it had been ordered that any time which might be devoted to drill or industrial training, other than a reasonable time for needlework, in the case of girls, should not be included in the time prescribed for attendance. The present Order, in more general terms, allows school instruction to include “any of the subjects for which grants may be made under the Code of Regulations of the Education Department, for the time being in force, except cookery, laundry work, dairy work, or cottage gardening.” Of the time allowed for needlework, not more than one-third is to be spent in mending; the rest is to be occupied in plain needlework, knitting, and cutting out and making garments. When children attend school for half-time, it is preferred that they shall receive the school instruction in the morning, and the industrial training in the afternoon. There is now no superior limit to the education that may be provided for a pauper child within the proper ages. As early as 1878 payment for the attendance of the workhouse girls at a school of cookery was held to be legal. Guardians are allowed to pay the fees for the instruction of the children at a technical institute when they see fit to do so, quite irrespective of whether or not the children of the poorest independent labourer can get such advantages.

It may be noted that a Special Order of 30th April 1887 (not mentioned in the Annual Reports, or otherwise communicated to boards of guardians) enables the Forest Gate District School to allow a class of the elder girls to go out and buy their food, spending not more than 3s. 6d. a week each, and prepare it for their own consumption, so as to get some practical experience of ordinary life. By another Order of 5th August 1889, the children in this one school are allowed to buy their own outfits (up to ?3 10s.). We do not find that the Central Authority has yet made these privileges general, nor extended them to any other indoor pauper children.

On 1st April 1904, the responsibility for the inspection of the education of the Poor Law Schools, and of pauper children in certified schools, was transferred to the Board of Education thus reverting to the policy prior to 1863.

(v.) Boarding-out

The boarding-out system was in 1871 still on its trial, having been authorised for scarcely a year, and the Central Authority was very guarded in expressing any opinion on its merits; it gradually won favour, but while mildly encouraging it the Central Authority would do nothing to force its growth. In 1900 it was referred to as one method of removing children from the workhouse, but it was never thought likely to become a practical means for dealing with the mass of pauper children, as a substitute either for ordinary outdoor relief or for Poor Law schools.

Boarding-out beyond the union had been first regulated by the Order of 25th November 1870. In 1877 it was found that boarding-out within the union was being largely practised, it being, as the Central Authority had itself held, legally only ordinary out-relief, requiring no sanction. This also was then regulated by a General Order.Both these Orders were re-issued with slight modifications in 1889, the former to every union in the country, the latter to all but the most populous town unions. Again, in 1905, the Order for boarding-out beyond the union was slightly altered and re-issued.

The operation of these Orders was limited to certain classes of children; in 1877 to those deserted by their parents, or whose parents were dead, undergoing penal servitude, suffering from mental disease, or out of England; by the Orders of 1889, children whose parents were permanently bedridden or disabled were added to the list; and in 1905 children adopted by the guardians were formally included, as such children could previously only be boarded out if they were also orphan or deserted according to the definition. The Central Authority refused its sanction to a proposal to board out the illegitimate children of able-bodied women in the workhouse. It was twice decided that when out-relief is given to a child living with a person not legally liable for its support, such child must be considered as boarded out. There is no age limit for boarding-out within the union, but a child may not be first boarded out beyond the union under two, nor when over ten, unless in the same home with a brother or sister under that age.

In view of this gradual adoption of the boarding-out system as a permanent form of the treatment of children under the Poor Law, it is instructive to compare the requirements which the Central Authority makes to ensure the proper maintenance of the boarded-out children with the policy just described in respect of the children on ordinary outdoor relief.

The various Orders all lay practically the same duties on the foster-parent. He is to sign an undertaking that: “He will bring up the child as one of his own children, and provide the child with proper food, lodging and washing, and endeavour to train the child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry, as well as in suitable domestic and outdoor work, so far as may be consistent with the law; that he will take care that the child shall attend duly at church or chapel according to the religious creed to which the child belongs, and shall attend school according to the provisions of the law for the time being; that he will provide for the proper repair and renewal of the child’s clothing, and that in case of the child’s illness he will forthwith report such illness to the guardians and to the boarding-out committee; and that he will at all times permit the child to be visited and the house to be inspected by any member of the boarding-out committee, and by any person specially appointed for that purpose by the guardians or by the Local Government Board. The undertaking shall also contain an engagement on the part of the foster-parent that he will, upon the demand of a person duly authorised in writing by the boarding-out committee, or by the guardians, give up possession of the child.” The 1905 undertaking is slightly different in terms, the chief variation being an omission of the reference t

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also

Children and the Local Government Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: (i.) On Outdoor Relief

There seems to have been, so far as regards children, no explicit change in policy in 1871. To take first the 336,870 children under sixteen who were on outdoor relief on 1st January 1871-almost exactly one-third of the aggregate pauperism-we see continued the same ignoring of their general condition. We do not find that the inspectors ever investigated what was happening to these children or that the Central Authority ever made any official inquiry, still less issued any order, on the subject. The general policy of restricting outdoor relief, which we have sufficiently described, had incidentally the effect, in the course of twenty years, of reducing the number of children on outdoor relief by nearly one-half.

On one point, indeed, that of education, as we have seen, Parliament had explicitly over-ridden the implied contention that the Poor Law Authorities had no responsibility for the welfare of the children on outdoor relief. The policy of Denison’s Act of 1855, which had been comparatively little acted upon, was extended in 1873 so as to make it compulsory on boards of guardians to see that such children between five and thirteen were regularly at school. The guardians were even required to pay the school fees for children-even illegitimate children-who were not paupers, if they needed this, and the parents did not thereby become paupers.We see the Central Authority communicating these decisions of the Legislature without comment, and the boards of guardians carrying them out as they chose;sometimes even taking it upon themselves to petition the Education Department to relax the requirement of schooling after twelve, as being hard on the parent, useless to the child, and leading to “much necessary work being left undone,” especially “the eradication of pernicious weeds.”

We may see further imposition of responsibility on the boards of guardians for the well-being of the children of the poor, in the series of Acts for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Already in 1868 boards of guardians had been expressly directed by statute to institute proceedings against parents who neglected their children.In 1888 the Central Authority reminded the guardians of the power they had thus had for twenty years, without often making use of it. In 1889 Parliament enacted that any person having the custody of a child under sixteen who “wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes such child, or causes or procures such child to be ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to its health, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour,” and that the guardians might, “out of the funds under their control, pay the reasonable costs and expenses of any proceedings” which they direct to be taken. They were not definitely required to take such proceedings, but Parliament laid the duty upon them to do so. The Act of 1894 made the provisions more explicit, and defined injury to health so as to include “injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement.”

These statutes were applicable, among others, to the 170,000 children on outdoor relief, many of whom were plainly underfed, housed in insanitary conditions, half-clothed, and generally treated in a manner “likely to cause injury” to their health; but we do not find that the boards of guardians realised the great increase of power and responsibility thus entrusted to them. The Central Authority, which observed mildly that Parliament evidently meant the guardians to institute proceedings, did not point out to them the applicability of the new statutes to the children on outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians, so far as we can ascertain, seldom or never acted on them. In 1904, accordingly, the power to pay the expenses of prosecution was transferred to county and borough authorities, so that the guardians ceased to be responsible for taking proceedings; but the workhouse remains a “place of safety” to which a constable or other person authorised by a Justice may take a child, the guardians are required to provide for the reception of any child so brought to the workhouse, and the master is bound to admit such child if there is sufficient accommodation.

After 1890 we find the responsibility of the Poor Law authorities for all the outdoor paupers beginning to be recognised by the inspectorate. “The absolute responsibility of the guardians for the material well-being of every one who is in receipt of outdoor relief,” said Mr. Davy in 1893, had been officially recognised by the District Nurses Order, to which we shall recur. “If any relief at all is given to an applicant,” Mr. Davy laid it down, “it is the plain duty of the guardians to take precautions to insure that … the pauper is sufficiently fed, clothed, and lodged.” This was notoriously not the case in many unions, the children especially being in an evil plight. “In many unions,” said Mr. Baldwyn Fleming, in 1891, “the relieving officer and the inspector of nuisances could show guardians cases … where large families are living in cottages too small for them, and the accommodation is in almost every respect unsatisfactory, where the children have little but rags to cover them by day or night, where school attendance is avoided to the utmost, where the feeding only just escapes starvation, where the physical and moral education of the children are equally impracticable, where infant life is one constant struggle with misery and privation.” The demoralising association of the outdoor pauper children with the pay-station was specially denounced by another inspector. “What,” he said, “is the sense, I would ask-I do ask in board rooms-of all this trouble and outlay to put the children into cottage homes or scattered homes, to keep them, in fact, altogether away from the workhouse, if while doing all this the very same authority permit the precisely similar children of the outdoor poor to haunt the pay-stations, to hang about workhouse gates, or to sit mixed up in waiting-rooms with adult paupers…. The children, early in life, often at times when they ought to be at school, have their eyes opened to the facility with which by exaggerating your impecunious condition, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week can be got without the labour of earning it…. The master of one of the board schools had written … to complain that three children systematically were kept from school on a particular day of the week for the purpose of drawing relief due to their parents.”

We cannot find, however, any order, minute, or circular explicitly taking official cognisance of the condition of these children (except in respect of the statutory requirement of school attendance); nor do the boards of guardians seem to have taken any trouble to inquire into their condition. In 1901 the Central Authority had reported to it, at its special request (in connection with the adequacy of the amount granted, especially for the aged), the amounts usually given in outdoor relief. In the majority of unions it must then have appeared that the amount allowed for the support of each child on outdoor relief was either the 1s. and one loaf per week, which had had the sanction of Mr. Corbett in 1869, or frequently 1s. 6d. per week. The Bradford Board of Guardians, however, if no other, reported that it allowed to deserving widows with dependent children 4s. for the first child, 3s. for the second, and 2s. for each additional child (besides 5s. for the mother herself). We do not find that any official view has been expressed as to this diversity.

At the very end of the period we find Parliament suddenly insisting on the responsibility of the boards of guardians for the condition, not only of the children on outdoor relief, but of all children in so far as sufficiency of food is concerned. By the Act of 1906 special provision is made for children at school who are in need of food. This Act, embodied in a General Order, was communicated to boards of guardians in a circular which explains the exact degree of responsibility which, in the opinion of the Central Authority, Parliament has thereby imposed on them. A parent is bound to supply his children with necessary food, and if he is unable to do so should apply to the guardians for help. When a father, being able to supply food, neglects to do so, or being unable neglects to apply to the guardians, so that the child is underfed, a “special application” on behalf of the child may be made to the guardians or relieving officer “by the managers, or by a teacher duly empowered by the managers, of a public elementary school, or by an officer duly empowered by the local education authority.” If the food is urgently needed it is to be supplied at once, as a loan to the father, and he is to be informed as soon as possible that it has been so given. When there is no such urgency, the father is to be informed that food will be supplied before it is given, that he may have the opportunity of providing it himself; and the guardians are to inquire whether the need is due to habitual neglect; if it is so, the relief shall (and in any case it may) be given on loan.

Whenever relief under this order is given on loan, the guardians are obliged to take proceedings for its recovery, unless the Local Government Board specially approves of their not doing so, which approval would only be obtainable in very special circumstances, e.g. if it were obviously impossible to recover the amount. It is held to be particularly important that these proceedings should always be taken, as they are the only means of safeguarding against abuse, for the rule that, as a condition of relief, the able-bodied father must enter the workhouse or be set to work by the guardians is specially abrogated in cases under this order, as being inapplicable to them. The order does not apply to any child who is blind or deaf and dumb, nor in the case of any relative except the father, nor if the child is not resident with the father. Relief is not to be ordered on a “special application” for a longer period than one month. “Where a special application is renewed within a short time, say six months, after the expiration of the period for which the relief has been given, and further relief has to be allowed, or where within this period special application is made and relief is given in respect of some other member of the same family, and the cause of the application is the habitual neglect of the father to provide food, the Board think that the guardians should consider whether the case is one in which proceedings could be taken against the father, either under the Vagrancy Act 1824, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904.”

Finally, the Board “trust that the boards of guardians, particularly those of populous unions in which cases of underfed children more frequently occur, will endeavour to co-operate with the local education authorities in dealing with really necessitous cases, whilst exercising due discrimination so as to avoid the pauperisation and consequent disfranchisement of parents who ought not to be brought under the Poor Law.”

The number of outdoor pauper children is now slightly more than in 1892, there being on 1st January 1906, 179,870 such, 96,804 being widows’ children, 72,721 children with both parents or with fathers only, and 10,345 having no parents.

Turning now to the much smaller number of children in Poor Law institutions, of whom there were on January 1st 1871, 55,832 (together with a very small number “boarded out”), we see a similar continuity of policy in the Central Authority, but in these cases it is continuity in the policy of a constant enlargement of responsibility, and of a steady improvement in the provision.

(ii.) In Poor Law Schools

The main pre-occupation of the Central Authority since 1871, so far as children are concerned, has been the increase, progressive improvement, and novel development of the Poor Law school entirely removed from the workhouse. The recommendations and incitements to boards of guardians to remove from the workhouse the healthy children of school age are incessant down to 1900. Such children are ordinarily accommodated in Poor Law schools, either district schools, where these exist, or much more frequently “separated” or “workhouse schools,” which may be of the old aggregated type, or “cottage homes” or “scattered homes.” The dramatic change from the views of 1850 is the abandonment of the “district school.” The aggregated type, held in such esteem previously to 1871, fell gradually into disfavour, and is now known as the “barrack school.” Already in 1871 Mr. Corbett was criticising these schools as being far too large (as well as too indiscriminate in the kind of children admitted) to be really successful. After repeated outbreaks of malignant ophthalmia, and continued experience of the mental draw-backs, especially of the large girls’ schools, the Central Authority abandoned its policy, and presently came to decline to sanction proposals which would have the effect of “extending the large schools in the Metropolis and … most readily entertain any proposals for applying to other purposes any of these large buildings, subject to other provision of a suitable character being made for the children.” The barrack school system grew up out of the five Metropolitan school districts; these also therefore shared in the condemnation, and in 1899 two had been dissolved.

A “separate school” belonging to a single union or separate parish would naturally be much smaller than a district school, but nothing is said as to the merits or demerits of an aggregated school of moderate size. The method which seems to have won the approval of the Central Authority is that of “cottage homes,” or the “block system,” under which children are grouped in bodies of not more than twenty-five or thirty in separate houses on a common ground of considerable acreage, and with suitable common buildings, such as baths, chapels, etc., under the supervision, not only of “house-mothers,” but also of a superintendent of the whole. Since 1894 the Board have constantly approved the erection of schools on this plan; they always require that the cottage homes should be entirely separated from the workhouse. The outstanding feature of this system is the great expense.

An alternative plan is that of “scattered homes,” i.e. cottages taken here and there throughout the union, not adjacent to each other, wherein the children live under the care of matrons or foster parents, and whence they attend the public elementary schools. In some cases the results of this system have been good, but the Central Authority received reports of certain cases of bad management, which made it cautious in regard to other proposals in that direction. The adoption of the system in Camberwell was sanctioned on the conditions that the guardians could satisfy the Central Authority that they could get proper houses for the scattered homes, and also that they could be quite sure of having an adequate system of inspection.

Notwithstanding the great expense of these highly elaborated boarding-schools for the indoor pauper boys and girls-an expense reaching between ?100 and ?200 capital, and between ?30 and ?50 annual maintenance, for each child-we see the Central Authority constantly pressing for their multiplication. The very idea of “less eligibility” has been forgotten by the inspectors. To quote one of them in 1902: “The number and nature of obstacles (to the removal of children from the workhouse) conjured up in the minds of many of the country guardians is,” he says, “quite surprising. One idea, which proves a great stumbling-block, is that the children will be put in a position above their deserts, and above that of the children living in their own homes with their parents.”

On 1st January 1906, the total number of children in “district or separate schools” was no more than 12,393, whilst in “cottage and other homes” there were 14,590; and 11,368 were in other institutions (mostly certified industrial schools, conducted by philanthropic committees not for profit).

(iii.) The Workhouse Children

Notwithstanding the desire of the Central Authority to remove the children from the workhouses, there remained on 1st January 1906 no fewer than 21,526 in these institutions. The Central Authority has, for instance, never objected to the retention in workhouses of children of tender years, or of children of any age, in the interval before they can be sent to school. In 1889, indeed, it was especially forbidden to send children to separate schools under the age of three. Though no alteration has been made in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, by which the internal economy of the workhouse is professedly governed, the Central Authority laid it down in 1895 that “in every workhouse in which there are several children too young to attend school, a separate nursery-dry, spacious, light, and well ventilated-should be provided, and should be suitably furnished.”

The children are always to be under the supervision of paid officers, a recommendation made in the days of the Poor Law Board, but still up to 1895 frequently urged-showing that at any rate till then it had not been effectively insisted on. Even in that year the Board had to write: “In no case should the care of young children be entrusted to inferior or weak-minded inmates”-a qualification which weakens the force of the prohibition of the use of paupers at all. “Unless young children are placed under responsible supervision they cannot be said to be ‘properly taken care of'”; and again, more generally, “all children in workhouses should be under the charge of officers, either industrial trainers or caretakers, and should not be left to the charge of adult paupers.” The medical officer is responsible for the children’s health, and with a view to the prevention of disease he is expected to inspect them, whether they are ill or not, “frequently and individually.” In this connection may be mentioned a “Memorandum relative to Ophthalmia of New-born Children,” in which the Board requested medical officers to give each nurse or midwife acting under their directions such written instructions as they might deem necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject. In 1882 the Central Authority refused to sanction any women’s committee; but by 1897 the guardians were urged to appoint women’s committees for the supervision of the women and children in the workhouse.

It is interesting to trace the growth of opinion with regard to the provision for the children of means of enjoyment. For half a century after 1834 the Central Authority allowed no toys whatever for all its tens of thousands of indoor children of all ages. An auditor in 1883 disallowed sums spent on toys for sick children, and Mr. Hibbert was questioned in Parliament. He said “there have been similar disallowances previously, and the Local Government Board, while relieving the persons surcharged of their liability, have held that expenditure of this character should be defrayed by private liberality, rather than out of rates compulsorily levied.” The disallowances had therefore hitherto been confirmed, the payments being thus decided to be actually illegal. “The subject,” continued Mr. Hibbert, “had been considered in connection with the recent surcharge, and it is proposed to hold that the expenditure was within the legal powers of the guardians, and the auditor will be communicated with, with a view to a reversal of his decision.” It is not clear which of these conflicting decisions of the Central Authority was in accordance with law.

In 1891 the Board wrote: “The supply of illustrated books and periodicals of children is especially desirable. Admirable publications of this class can now be obtained at a very small cost, and where it appears to be necessary an expenditure by the guardians for this purpose should, in the Board’s opinion, be urged upon them. The question of the provision of bats, balls, skipping-ropes, etc., for the children and toys for the infants, is also one which the Board are desirous should receive the attention of the inspectors on the occasion of their inspections of the workhouses.”

“Special care should be taken that a sufficient part of each day is set apart for recreation only, and that the children should be allowed to take exercise frequently outside the workhouse premises, and that they should be encouraged in healthy games of all sorts.” The guardians were allowed to take girls from the Forest Gate Schools to see the sights of London, provided the places visited were approved by the school inspector, and also to pay a donation to the funds of a Band of Hope, when the Poor Law children were allowed to share in the work of the society.

In recent years, we see the inspectorate urging that even children of tender years ought not to live in the workhouse. This is a new idea which has not yet received more formal endorsement. As children under three may not, by the Central Authority’s own order of 10th February 1899, be sent to a separate Poor Law school, there is as yet no place for them but the workhouse. “Nothing has been said,” observed Mr. Jenner Fust, in 1901, “about the nursery children, at present retained at the workhouse till three years old, or even more, though the case of these requires attention as much as that of the older ones. They are almost always largely under the care of inmates, and the conditions are seldom improved even when these inmates are their own mothers…. I cannot but think that nursery homes with trained nurses as foster-mothers should form part of the equipment of all cottage homes, or, if a separate receiving home be established, the nursery children might conveniently be placed there, the removal from the workhouse not being delayed beyond the period when a child is able to walk.”

With regard to the education of the older workhouse children the Central Authority has changed its policy. It does not actually forbid the guardians to arrange for a school within the workhouse, which was the policy of 1850. But the plan now favoured is to send them out to the public elementary schools, as is also done when they are placed in scattered homes. At first the Central Authority only sanctioned this course with reluctance, only when the number of such children was small, and with special recommendations as to the appointment of officers to supervise the children out of school hours and impart industrial training. In the case of one union, they “urged the guardians to reconsider the question, with a view to the appointment either of a caretaker of the children or a porter, who could give that attention to the boys when in the workhouse which was of such importance to their future welfare.” Later, perhaps, when the principle of paid “caretakers” had become more fully accepted, the Central Authority gave the system much more hearty support, noted its prevalence with satisfaction, and considered it highly desirable that children in Poor Law establishments should thus be given opportunities of mixing with other children.

When there is a choice of elementary schools, each child should be sent to the one conducted according to its own religious creed, and it was also recommended that the children should be sent out to Sunday schools of their own denomination. This denomination is ordinarily that of the child’s parents, but if the religion is not known, he is to be brought up in the Church of England: if the father changes his creed, that of the child changes also.

While in the workhouse the children are to receive instruction in industrial and manual work, but the Board strongly resisted proposals for sending them out to work in factories.

Subject to these conditions, the 21,526 children living in the workhouse remain there to the knowledge and with the sanction of the Central Authority-at least, this is what the guardians contend, and, so far as we can discover, there is no order, circular, or minute to the contrary.

Meanwhile the guardians are pressed to bestow on them an amount of salaried care and expensive attention that surprises the more old-fashioned among them, who have not yet quite abandoned the principle of “less eligibility.” “One matter of some interest,” says Mr. Baldwyn Fleming in 1902, “is the curious reluctance displayed by country guardians to have the children’s teeth cared for.” The argument used is, “The ratepayers do not take their children to the dentist, and why should we do so?” (in the case of the indoor Poor Law children.)

(iv.) The Education of the Indoor Pauper Child

Down to 1897 the Central Authority had contemplated and recognised in its orders and circulars that the pauper children would spend only about half the school time in ordinary school subjects, the other half being devoted to what was euphemistically called “industrial training.” This meant, in practice, the employment of the children in domestic work, gardening, mending clothes or boots, and so on, the persons selected as “industrial trainers” not being required to have any pedagogic qualifications or power to teach, and being paid in fact only at workmen’s rates. In 1897, the rapid abandonment of the half-time system outside the workhouse led to a great advance. By the Order of that year, which governs all Poor Law schools, whether they are in workhouses or district or separate schools, the half-time system is greatly discouraged. Industrial training takes a subordinate place. The Order fixes the number of hours during which the children are to be under school instruction, and provides for a ten minutes’ rest in every attendance of two hours or more, limits the number of hours which may be occupied in manual or industrial work, and provides for one whole holiday or two half-holidays in each week, in addition to allowing six weeks’ holidays in the year if the guardians choose to grant it. One object of the Order was to secure that children should not be unduly pressed with manual or industrial work in addition to the school instruction. The religious teaching required by any Orders in force is to be given in addition to the school hours. In 1877 it had been ordered that any time which might be devoted to drill or industrial training, other than a reasonable time for needlework, in the case of girls, should not be included in the time prescribed for attendance. The present Order, in more general terms, allows school instruction to include “any of the subjects for which grants may be made under the Code of Regulations of the Education Department, for the time being in force, except cookery, laundry work, dairy work, or cottage gardening.” Of the time allowed for needlework, not more than one-third is to be spent in mending; the rest is to be occupied in plain needlework, knitting, and cutting out and making garments. When children attend school for half-time, it is preferred that they shall receive the school instruction in the morning, and the industrial training in the afternoon. There is now no superior limit to the education that may be provided for a pauper child within the proper ages. As early as 1878 payment for the attendance of the workhouse girls at a school of cookery was held to be legal. Guardians are allowed to pay the fees for the instruction of the children at a technical institute when they see fit to do so, quite irrespective of whether or not the children of the poorest independent labourer can get such advantages.

It may be noted that a Special Order of 30th April 1887 (not mentioned in the Annual Reports, or otherwise communicated to boards of guardians) enables the Forest Gate District School to allow a class of the elder girls to go out and buy their food, spending not more than 3s. 6d. a week each, and prepare it for their own consumption, so as to get some practical experience of ordinary life. By another Order of 5th August 1889, the children in this one school are allowed to buy their own outfits (up to ?3 10s.). We do not find that the Central Authority has yet made these privileges general, nor extended them to any other indoor pauper children.

On 1st April 1904, the responsibility for the inspection of the education of the Poor Law Schools, and of pauper children in certified schools, was transferred to the Board of Education thus reverting to the policy prior to 1863.

(v.) Boarding-out

The boarding-out system was in 1871 still on its trial, having been authorised for scarcely a year, and the Central Authority was very guarded in expressing any opinion on its merits; it gradually won favour, but while mildly encouraging it the Central Authority would do nothing to force its growth. In 1900 it was referred to as one method of removing children from the workhouse, but it was never thought likely to become a practical means for dealing with the mass of pauper children, as a substitute either for ordinary outdoor relief or for Poor Law schools.

Boarding-out beyond the union had been first regulated by the Order of 25th November 1870. In 1877 it was found that boarding-out within the union was being largely practised, it being, as the Central Authority had itself held, legally only ordinary out-relief, requiring no sanction. This also was then regulated by a General Order.Both these Orders were re-issued with slight modifications in 1889, the former to every union in the country, the latter to all but the most populous town unions. Again, in 1905, the Order for boarding-out beyond the union was slightly altered and re-issued.

The operation of these Orders was limited to certain classes of children; in 1877 to those deserted by their parents, or whose parents were dead, undergoing penal servitude, suffering from mental disease, or out of England; by the Orders of 1889, children whose parents were permanently bedridden or disabled were added to the list; and in 1905 children adopted by the guardians were formally included, as such children could previously only be boarded out if they were also orphan or deserted according to the definition. The Central Authority refused its sanction to a proposal to board out the illegitimate children of able-bodied women in the workhouse. It was twice decided that when out-relief is given to a child living with a person not legally liable for its support, such child must be considered as boarded out. There is no age limit for boarding-out within the union, but a child may not be first boarded out beyond the union under two, nor when over ten, unless in the same home with a brother or sister under that age.

In view of this gradual adoption of the boarding-out system as a permanent form of the treatment of children under the Poor Law, it is instructive to compare the requirements which the Central Authority makes to ensure the proper maintenance of the boarded-out children with the policy just described in respect of the children on ordinary outdoor relief.

The various Orders all lay practically the same duties on the foster-parent. He is to sign an undertaking that: “He will bring up the child as one of his own children, and provide the child with proper food, lodging and washing, and endeavour to train the child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry, as well as in suitable domestic and outdoor work, so far as may be consistent with the law; that he will take care that the child shall attend duly at church or chapel according to the religious creed to which the child belongs, and shall attend school according to the provisions of the law for the time being; that he will provide for the proper repair and renewal of the child’s clothing, and that in case of the child’s illness he will forthwith report such illness to the guardians and to the boarding-out committee; and that he will at all times permit the child to be visited and the house to be inspected by any member of the boarding-out committee, and by any person specially appointed for that purpose by the guardians or by the Local Government Board. The undertaking shall also contain an engagement on the part of the foster-parent that he will, upon the demand of a person duly authorised in writing by the boarding-out committee, or by the guardians, give up possession of the child.” The 1905 undertaking is slightly different in terms, the chief variation being an omission of the reference t

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also

Children and the Poor Law Commissioners

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: The policy of the Central Authority with regard to the relief of children rested on the general rule that children, residing with their parents (or surviving parent) and dependent on them for support, had to follow them for relief. This was not limited by any condition as to the age of the child, the essential fact being the dependence of the child for support. Looked at from the standpoint of the child, this involved a great and complex difference in policy in the two different areas of the country to which we have had so often to refer. In unions governed by the Outdoor Labour Test Order (afterwards the Outdoor Relief Regulation Order, 1852), all such children might be relieved in their homes, the only limitation placed on the discretion of the local authority being that, if they were the children of able-bodied men, at least half the relief granted to the father for their necessities had to be in kind.

In unions in which the Outdoor Relief Prohibitory Order was in force, the children (although not sick) of certain classes of parents might be relieved in their own homes, whilst those of certain other classes of parents could be relieved only by admission to the workhouse (unless, in particular instances, the grant of outdoor relief was specially sanctioned by the Central Authority). This determination by the Central Authority of the method of relief of such children did not depend on their age, their sex, their characteristics, or their needs, but on the artificial categories in which their fathers (or mothers) were placed. We need not follow these intricacies once more in detail. They can easily be unravelled from the foregoing sections on “The Able-bodied” and on “Women.”

Whatever outdoor relief was given to the parent in respect of the child, the policy of the Central Authority was one of absolute non-intervention with regard to its treatment. No directions were given, either for its education or for any other of its needs. The only direction that we find is a decision that the local authority must not pay the school fees for any such child; and must not even add with this view 2d. per week per child to the outdoor relief granted to the parent.

When the child entered the workhouse it passed out of its former classification and entered into an entirely different one. For outdoor relief, as we have seen, the policy of the Central Authority was to distinguish among children only according to the kind of parents they had. Inside the workhouse, the policy of the Central Authority was to regard this classification as irrelevant, and to place all children, of whatever parentage, in categories, dependent on their own age, sex and health. They were either sick or well; and also either [1] Children under seven; (2) Boys between seven and fifteen; or (3) Girls between seven and fifteen. The treatment of these categories is so inextricably mixed up with that of the other inmates of the workhouse that we relegate the matter to our subsequent sections.

The Central Authority gave no direction to change the system under which some local authorities sent their pauper children to establishments kept for private profit. In 1838, this system was implicitly sanctioned by a long instructional letter, dealing with “Mr. Aubin’s establishment for pauper children at Norwood,” where the children were employed in the workshop on alternate days, and were under the special care of a chaplain.

But the Central Authority was evidently uneasy about the quarter of a million pauper children, of whom it was gradually getting some tens of thousands in the great general workhouses on which it had insisted. Reports on the training of the workhouse children were called for, and a valuable series was published in 1841, in which the establishment of separate boarding schools was suggested, where the children could receive both elementary schooling and industrial training. This proposal united the opposition of the boards of guardians, who objected to a new authority, to that of those who demurred to giving the pauper children any better education than the children of the lowest independent labourer.

In 1844, as we have seen, the Central Authority obtained statutory power to direct the establishment of district schools; but no Order on the subject appears to have been issued prior to 1847.

We pass now to the children of an age to be started in life. Though the Central Authority had been expressly empowered to issue regulations as to apprenticeship, it did not, during its first decade, issue any Order on the subject. The only indication which we can find of the policy which it wished pursued during this decade with regard to such children is a comment on the proposed Bill for the Amendment of the Poor Law in 1840. This comment is strongly adverse to the payment of apprenticeship premiums, and suggests that premiums are only needed in “occasional” cases of lame or blind children. Not until 1845 does the Central Authority issue any directions on the subject. By the Apprenticeship Orders of December 1844, and January 1845, amended in August 1845, and included and amplified in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, elaborate conditions of apprenticeship were prescribed for the protection of the apprentice; limits of age were fixed; the duties of the masters were made more onerous and definite; and the payment of premiums, whilst still allowed for children between nine and sixteen, was expressly prohibited, at first for all over fourteen, but subsequently for all over sixteen, unless physically deformed or defective, except in the form of clothing. But the Central Authority does not advocate apprenticeship. On the contrary, in issuing the Order of 1845, it wrote a special letter to accompany it in which the local authorities were pointedly reminded that it had hitherto refrained from issuing any regulations on the subject; that as Parliament had not abolished the system of apprenticeship it would “doubtless continue to be practised in those districts where it has hitherto prevailed”; that “there are not wanting authorities of weight against the system”; and that local authorities were not to infer that the Central Authority entertained “any desire to promote its introduction.”

Apart from this severe discouragement of apprenticeship we can discover no indication of the policy of the Central Authority as to starting the children in life. No advice was given to the local authorities on the subject.

Children and the Poor Law Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: It was with regard to children that the policy of the Central Authority in this period made the greatest advance. This, however, applies chiefly to the 40,000 children who were being relieved in institutions. With regard to the children being maintained on outdoor relief-who were at least five times as numerous-we do not find that the Central Authority in this period took any cognisance of their condition, except to some small extent with regard to their schooling. Even this was a new feature. In 1844, as already mentioned, the Central Authority had expressly refused to allow 2d. a week to be paid for the schooling of such a child, or even to permit that sum to be added to the outdoor relief to the parent with the same object. This decision was emphasised by a Circular in 1847, laying down that pauper children living at home were not to be educated at the expense of the poor rate. For years the Manchester Board of Guardians, under the leadership of Mr. Hodgson, had tried to get some of their outdoor pauper children to school, the guardians actually maintaining a primitive day school of their own for this purpose. The Central Authority refused to sanction this experiment, forbade its extension, questioned the lawfulness of the guardians’ action, and between 1850 and 1855 seems always to have been complaining about it. In 1855, however, Parliament reversed the policy of non-responsibility for outdoor pauper children, so far as to allow the boards of guardians, if they chose, to pay for the schooling of such children between the ages of four and sixteen. They were, however, expressly forbidden to make it a condition of relief that the child should attend school, for fear of exciting religious jealousies, all schools being then denominational. The Central Authority, in transmitting this statute (“Denison’s Act”) to the boards of guardians, laid stress on its permissive character. No instructions or suggestions were given as to the kind of school to be chosen, though if the guardians in their exercise of their discretion did pay the fees of any children, they were to satisfy themselves of their due attendance. But it trusted that “it will be soon brought into extensive operation,” and presently 3986 out of the 200,000 outdoor pauper children were at school. Special efforts were made during the Lancashire cotton famine to get the Act carried out, and gradually more of the boards of guardians adopted the policy. In 1870 the Elementary Education Act made education compulsory over a large part of the country, and authorised boards of guardians not only to pay fees, but also to make attendance at school a condition of relief. This, however, came as part of the educational policy of Parliament, not as part of the Poor Law policy of the Central Authority. So far as these children were concerned (though nominal fees continued to be paid out of the poor rate until 1891), the provision of schooling became merged in the general communistic provision of schooling for the whole population. By this beginning of communistic provision of education for the whole population (completed by the Free Education Act of 1891), the Poor Law authorities were enabled to escape-so far as education was concerned-from the embarrassing dilemma of either placing the pauper child in a position of vantage, or of deliberately bringing up the quarter of a million pauper children in a state of ignorance similar to that of the children of the poorest independent labourer prior to 1870. In respect of everything but education the problem remained. So far as regards the couple of hundred thousand children maintained on outdoor relief, the Central Authority left the boards of guardians without advice on this dilemma.

Passing now to the 40,000 children in Poor Law institutions, we have described how, between 1834 and 1847, the Central Authority, in disregard of the recommendations of the 1834 Report, had adopted the policy of having one common workhouse for each union, under a single head, and with an almost identical regimen for all classes of inmates. It was necessarily incidental to the policy of the Outdoor Relief Prohibitory Order which was then widely prevalent, that the wife and children of the destitute man should be relieved only in the workhouse. These institutions came, therefore, to be the homes and places of education of not only orphans and foundlings, but also of tens of thousands of other children, who were often immured in them from birth until they could be placed out in service. Apparently the idea of one general workhouse for each union, under one uniform discipline, was too deeply rooted in the Poor Law Commissioners to allow of any provision being made for children in the Orders concerning workhouse management. No provision was made for the children going out for walks or games or play. No Order required the guardians to appoint a qualified schoolmaster, or, indeed, any teacher at all, or to buy any school-books. Year after year the returns from many unions continue to state “No teachers in workhouse,” without evoking from the Central Authority any compulsory Order.

It is to the credit of the new Poor Law Board that it at once admitted that the much-vaunted general workhouse system was, so far as the children were concerned, simply manufacturing paupers. “Too many of those brought up in the workhouse,” said Mr. Charles Buller in 1848, “were marked by a tendency to regard the workhouse as their natural and proper home…. They had been accustomed to the workhouse from their earliest infancy and … to the confinement, … and when they became adults there was nothing to deter them from entering it.” The remedy now proposed was the removal of all children from the workhouses to separate Poor Law schools, and their education, irrespective of cost, in such a way “as may best tend to raise them from the class of paupers to that of independent labourers and artisans.” To attain this end the Central Authority secured another statute in amendment of the hitherto abortive Act of 1844, permitting the establishment of “district schools” by combinations of unions. But what enabled this policy to be begun in the teeth of persistent opposition was a terrible outbreak of cholera at Mr. Drouet’s establishment at Tooting, where the pauper children of many parishes had continued (as a survival of the old Poor Law, not yet interfered with by the Central Authority) to be “farmed out.”

In the course of the same year the Central Authority succeeded in forming half-a-dozen school districts, and approved the establishment of a gigantic boarding-school for each of them, accommodating 800, and even 1000 children. The General Order issued in 1849 for the government of these “district schools” did not prescribe the details of administration so precisely as did the General Consolidated Order of 1847; and much latitude was left to the enterprise of the governing body. Against the formation of these school districts the boards of guardians successfully rebelled, much preferring to have a separate school for each union, and outside London this was the system generally adopted by the more populous unions. These separate schools, which were in all cases distinct from the workhouse, were regulated by special Orders, providing in similar general terms for the elements of good administration, but also leaving much to the discretion of the guardians. The Central Authority now pressed the policy of separate schools on the boards of guardians at every opportunity. In 1856, for instance, we find it saying to the Holborn Guardians that it cannot “too strongly urge upon the guardians the importance of the children being so brought up as to preserve them, as far as possible, free from the habits and associations contracted in a workhouse; and of their receiving such instruction as will fit them to earn their own livelihood. These objects will be best secured by the removal of the children to a separate school.” The Central Authority made useful suggestions, and it also encouraged improvements by laudatory description of the best schools in the Official Circular and the Annual Reports. When it was objected by some boards of guardians that to teach writing and arithmetic to the pauper children was to give them advantages superior to those of the children of the independent labourer, the Central Authority replied that the provision of a good education for the children was not likely to encourage voluntary pauperism in the parents, and therefore there was no need to apply the principle of less eligibility in this case.

On the other hand, it has to be recorded that there were apparently opposing influences at work, as the Norwich Board of Guardians found to its cost in 1854. That board had in 1846, apparently of its own accord, begun a most interesting experiment. As the workhouse was old and overcrowded, and obviously contaminating to the hundreds of children it contained, separate “Boys’ and Girls’ Homes” were established, away from the workhouse and under separate management. At these early types of Poor Law schools the children received both scholastic and industrial training. Their special feature was, however, that the boys of sufficient age were placed out in situations in the town, continuing to use the institution as their home, and contributing the wages that they earned towards the cost of their maintenance. The Norwich Guardians had found, as others have done since, that the old style of indoor apprenticeship was nearly extinct. They had resorted to what they called “outdoor apprenticeship.” “In nineteen cases out of twenty the apprentices bound out … have been outdoor apprentices and have resided with their parents, and received certain weekly allowances. Masters will not consent to take into their houses pauper apprentices.” The Central Authority had objected to this, and had insisted on enforcing the usual apprenticeship order. Apparently it was not found possible to place boys out on this obsolete system, and the plan was adopted of getting the boys situations at wages, low at first, and not for some years amounting to enough fully to maintain them. This experiment had been undertaken with the full knowledge of the Poor Law inspectors, who constantly visited the homes, and who expressed themselves in high praise of their success, and it had even been specially described in print, with great commendation, by the inspector of pauper schools. Indeed, the eighty-seven boys who had already passed out of the homes (presumably as soon as their wages were big enough to keep them) were, with fewer than a dozen exceptions, well launched in the world and doing well. In 1854, however, after eight years, the Central Authority intimated that the whole expenditure on the homes was illegal, as being unauthorised, and it was in fact disallowed. It added that, whilst it was prepared to sanction the continuance of the homes as mere schools, it could not permit them to be used as homes for the elder boys who went out to work. The grounds on which this decision was arrived at are not clear. In one place it is stated that the Poor Law Board “conceive it to be unjust to the children of the independent poor,” presumably unjust to give the pauper boys such advantages. In another place it is stated that the Poor Law Board had only been induced to permit the homes temporarily on the understanding that they were self-supporting-a contention hardly consistent with that of their illegality-whereas the boys who went out to work proved to cost something to the rates, though admittedly less than they would have cost in the workhouse. In a third place it is pointed out that the projected new workhouse will amply accommodate all the children, so that the homes will be unnecessary even as schools-an argument which seems inconsistent with the general policy of the Poor Law Board, unless we are to infer that it wanted only district schools by combinations of unions. We may note, as a final hint of the uncertainty that prevailed, that, after three years’ correspondence, the Poor Law inspector advised the guardians to ask the Central Authority to sanction temporarily the continuance of the homes, as “it is quite possible … that within the next two years the Legislature may resolve on communicating greater vitality to the provisions for the establishment of district schools.” He had told the clerk to the guardians verbally that it was probable that Parliament would make it compulsory to provide for pauper children in establishments apart from workhouses, but that he saw “with regret how strongly different views are pressed” in regard to these homes; and that the guardians would meanwhile do well to delay proceeding with any but the adults’ wards of the new workhouse.

No such legislation as was thus foreshadowed took place, but the policy of removing the children from the workhouses was meanwhile incidentally promoted by an Act of 1849, which enabled use to be made of any establishment in which paupers were maintained by contract “for the education of any poor children therein.”Similarly the various Industrial Schools Acts opened up another class of schools to pauper children. Finally, the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1869 enabled training ships to be established by school districts and the Metropolitan Asylums Board for the education of pauper boys for the sea service. Already by 1856 it was reported with satisfaction that 78 per cent of the children under boards of guardians in the Metropolis were in separate schools-statistics, however, which continued to ignore the much larger number of children on outdoor relief, of whose existence the Central Authority only gradually became aware.

During the next twenty years we see this policy of separate boarding schools for such of the Poor Law children as were on indoor relief being constantly pressed on boards of guardians. The erection of these costly barrack schools, which were each regulated by a separate Special Order, differing slightly from school to school, the steady improvement in their accommodation and diet, and the continuous rise in the educational standard attained, which is the great feature of the ensuing period (though in accordance with the recommendations of the 1834 Report), marks a definite abandonment, as regards the children, of the principle that the condition of the pauper should always be less eligible than that of the lowest class of independent labourer. But although in the course of the period 1847-71, in the Metropolis and various large towns, the greater number of the boys and girls between five and fourteen were removed from the workhouses to these “barrack schools” and similar institutions, such schools were not made compulsory; the retention of children in the workhouse was not forbidden, and in hundreds of unions they remained unaffected by the new policy of the Central Authority, which apparently felt unable to require the boards of guardians to adopt it. Even when the bulk of the children were placed in separate schools, there were always some in the workhouse itself; and it is remarkable that the Central Authority made no attempt to modify for these the provisions of the General Consolidated Order of 1847, the effect of which upon the workhouse administration of the period we have already described.

Meanwhile the “workhouse schools” continued to improve very slowly in educational efficiency. The policy of the Central Authority was apparently to develop industrial training-agricultural work, the simpler handicrafts, and domestic service-on the model of the “Quatt School” in Shropshire. Whether or not this industrial work militated against more intellectual accomplishments is a moot point, but we hear of “the reports of ‘the stagnant dulness of workhouse education’ which annually proceed from Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools.”

Whether or not from a certain divergence of aim between the departments, the connection was in 1863 severed, and the Poor Law Board thenceforward had its own inspectors of Poor Law Schools, whose criticisms and complaints, all in favour of the large district schools as compared with the single union school, appear from 1867 onward in the Annual Reports.

At the very end of the period we may note the beginning of a reaction against the “barrack schools.” It was pointed out by those acquainted with the Scottish system of boarding-out, as well as by persons experienced in English Poor Law administration, that these expensive boarding schools were not answering so well as their admirers claimed, especially as regards the girls. During 1866-9 the alternative of “boarding-out” children in private families at 4s. a week (now 5s.) was warmly discussed, and experimentally adopted in a few places. In 1869 the Central Authority so far yielded to the criticisms made upon these institutions as to permit, under elaborate restrictions and safeguards, the “boarding-out,” in families beyond the limits of the union, of the comparatively small class of children who were actually or practically orphans. In these cases all idea of making the condition of the pauper child less eligible than that of the lowest independent labourer was definitely abandoned. The whole concern of the Central Authority was to see that the provision for the boarded-out child was good and complete. Far from being assimilated to the children of the lowest independent labourers, the boarded-out children were only to be entrusted to specially selected families superior to the lowest, who undertook to bring them up as their own, to provide proper food, clothing and washing, to train them in good habits as well as in suitable domestic and industrial work, and to make them regularly attend school and place of worship. For all this the foster parents were to receive with each child a sum three or four times as great as was, with the sanction of the Central Authority, commonly allowed for the maintenance of each of the couple of hundred thousand children at that date on outdoor relief; and which (as Professor Fawcett vainly objected) was far in excess of what the ordinary labourer could afford to expend on his own children. “A plan,” observed Mr. Fowle, “which cannot be defended on any sound principles of Poor Law.” “It is indeed impossible,” says Mr. Mackay in this connection, “to deny that apparently every provision for pauper children may be regarded as a contravention of this rule…. Professor Fawcett’s … argument has been tacitly neglected.”

Children and the Local Government Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: (i.) On Outdoor Relief

There seems to have been, so far as regards children, no explicit change in policy in 1871. To take first the 336,870 children under sixteen who were on outdoor relief on 1st January 1871-almost exactly one-third of the aggregate pauperism-we see continued the same ignoring of their general condition. We do not find that the inspectors ever investigated what was happening to these children or that the Central Authority ever made any official inquiry, still less issued any order, on the subject. The general policy of restricting outdoor relief, which we have sufficiently described, had incidentally the effect, in the course of twenty years, of reducing the number of children on outdoor relief by nearly one-half.

On one point, indeed, that of education, as we have seen, Parliament had explicitly over-ridden the implied contention that the Poor Law Authorities had no responsibility for the welfare of the children on outdoor relief. The policy of Denison’s Act of 1855, which had been comparatively little acted upon, was extended in 1873 so as to make it compulsory on boards of guardians to see that such children between five and thirteen were regularly at school. The guardians were even required to pay the school fees for children-even illegitimate children-who were not paupers, if they needed this, and the parents did not thereby become paupers.We see the Central Authority communicating these decisions of the Legislature without comment, and the boards of guardians carrying them out as they chose;sometimes even taking it upon themselves to petition the Education Department to relax the requirement of schooling after twelve, as being hard on the parent, useless to the child, and leading to “much necessary work being left undone,” especially “the eradication of pernicious weeds.”

We may see further imposition of responsibility on the boards of guardians for the well-being of the children of the poor, in the series of Acts for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Already in 1868 boards of guardians had been expressly directed by statute to institute proceedings against parents who neglected their children.In 1888 the Central Authority reminded the guardians of the power they had thus had for twenty years, without often making use of it. In 1889 Parliament enacted that any person having the custody of a child under sixteen who “wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes such child, or causes or procures such child to be ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to its health, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour,” and that the guardians might, “out of the funds under their control, pay the reasonable costs and expenses of any proceedings” which they direct to be taken. They were not definitely required to take such proceedings, but Parliament laid the duty upon them to do so. The Act of 1894 made the provisions more explicit, and defined injury to health so as to include “injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement.”

These statutes were applicable, among others, to the 170,000 children on outdoor relief, many of whom were plainly underfed, housed in insanitary conditions, half-clothed, and generally treated in a manner “likely to cause injury” to their health; but we do not find that the boards of guardians realised the great increase of power and responsibility thus entrusted to them. The Central Authority, which observed mildly that Parliament evidently meant the guardians to institute proceedings, did not point out to them the applicability of the new statutes to the children on outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians, so far as we can ascertain, seldom or never acted on them. In 1904, accordingly, the power to pay the expenses of prosecution was transferred to county and borough authorities, so that the guardians ceased to be responsible for taking proceedings; but the workhouse remains a “place of safety” to which a constable or other person authorised by a Justice may take a child, the guardians are required to provide for the reception of any child so brought to the workhouse, and the master is bound to admit such child if there is sufficient accommodation.

After 1890 we find the responsibility of the Poor Law authorities for all the outdoor paupers beginning to be recognised by the inspectorate. “The absolute responsibility of the guardians for the material well-being of every one who is in receipt of outdoor relief,” said Mr. Davy in 1893, had been officially recognised by the District Nurses Order, to which we shall recur. “If any relief at all is given to an applicant,” Mr. Davy laid it down, “it is the plain duty of the guardians to take precautions to insure that … the pauper is sufficiently fed, clothed, and lodged.” This was notoriously not the case in many unions, the children especially being in an evil plight. “In many unions,” said Mr. Baldwyn Fleming, in 1891, “the relieving officer and the inspector of nuisances could show guardians cases … where large families are living in cottages too small for them, and the accommodation is in almost every respect unsatisfactory, where the children have little but rags to cover them by day or night, where school attendance is avoided to the utmost, where the feeding only just escapes starvation, where the physical and moral education of the children are equally impracticable, where infant life is one constant struggle with misery and privation.” The demoralising association of the outdoor pauper children with the pay-station was specially denounced by another inspector. “What,” he said, “is the sense, I would ask-I do ask in board rooms-of all this trouble and outlay to put the children into cottage homes or scattered homes, to keep them, in fact, altogether away from the workhouse, if while doing all this the very same authority permit the precisely similar children of the outdoor poor to haunt the pay-stations, to hang about workhouse gates, or to sit mixed up in waiting-rooms with adult paupers…. The children, early in life, often at times when they ought to be at school, have their eyes opened to the facility with which by exaggerating your impecunious condition, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week can be got without the labour of earning it…. The master of one of the board schools had written … to complain that three children systematically were kept from school on a particular day of the week for the purpose of drawing relief due to their parents.”

We cannot find, however, any order, minute, or circular explicitly taking official cognisance of the condition of these children (except in respect of the statutory requirement of school attendance); nor do the boards of guardians seem to have taken any trouble to inquire into their condition. In 1901 the Central Authority had reported to it, at its special request (in connection with the adequacy of the amount granted, especially for the aged), the amounts usually given in outdoor relief. In the majority of unions it must then have appeared that the amount allowed for the support of each child on outdoor relief was either the 1s. and one loaf per week, which had had the sanction of Mr. Corbett in 1869, or frequently 1s. 6d. per week. The Bradford Board of Guardians, however, if no other, reported that it allowed to deserving widows with dependent children 4s. for the first child, 3s. for the second, and 2s. for each additional child (besides 5s. for the mother herself). We do not find that any official view has been expressed as to this diversity.

At the very end of the period we find Parliament suddenly insisting on the responsibility of the boards of guardians for the condition, not only of the children on outdoor relief, but of all children in so far as sufficiency of food is concerned. By the Act of 1906 special provision is made for children at school who are in need of food. This Act, embodied in a General Order, was communicated to boards of guardians in a circular which explains the exact degree of responsibility which, in the opinion of the Central Authority, Parliament has thereby imposed on them. A parent is bound to supply his children with necessary food, and if he is unable to do so should apply to the guardians for help. When a father, being able to supply food, neglects to do so, or being unable neglects to apply to the guardians, so that the child is underfed, a “special application” on behalf of the child may be made to the guardians or relieving officer “by the managers, or by a teacher duly empowered by the managers, of a public elementary school, or by an officer duly empowered by the local education authority.” If the food is urgently needed it is to be supplied at once, as a loan to the father, and he is to be informed as soon as possible that it has been so given. When there is no such urgency, the father is to be informed that food will be supplied before it is given, that he may have the opportunity of providing it himself; and the guardians are to inquire whether the need is due to habitual neglect; if it is so, the relief shall (and in any case it may) be given on loan.

Whenever relief under this order is given on loan, the guardians are obliged to take proceedings for its recovery, unless the Local Government Board specially approves of their not doing so, which approval would only be obtainable in very special circumstances, e.g. if it were obviously impossible to recover the amount. It is held to be particularly important that these proceedings should always be taken, as they are the only means of safeguarding against abuse, for the rule that, as a condition of relief, the able-bodied father must enter the workhouse or be set to work by the guardians is specially abrogated in cases under this order, as being inapplicable to them. The order does not apply to any child who is blind or deaf and dumb, nor in the case of any relative except the father, nor if the child is not resident with the father. Relief is not to be ordered on a “special application” for a longer period than one month. “Where a special application is renewed within a short time, say six months, after the expiration of the period for which the relief has been given, and further relief has to be allowed, or where within this period special application is made and relief is given in respect of some other member of the same family, and the cause of the application is the habitual neglect of the father to provide food, the Board think that the guardians should consider whether the case is one in which proceedings could be taken against the father, either under the Vagrancy Act 1824, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904.”

Finally, the Board “trust that the boards of guardians, particularly those of populous unions in which cases of underfed children more frequently occur, will endeavour to co-operate with the local education authorities in dealing with really necessitous cases, whilst exercising due discrimination so as to avoid the pauperisation and consequent disfranchisement of parents who ought not to be brought under the Poor Law.”

The number of outdoor pauper children is now slightly more than in 1892, there being on 1st January 1906, 179,870 such, 96,804 being widows’ children, 72,721 children with both parents or with fathers only, and 10,345 having no parents.

Turning now to the much smaller number of children in Poor Law institutions, of whom there were on January 1st 1871, 55,832 (together with a very small number “boarded out”), we see a similar continuity of policy in the Central Authority, but in these cases it is continuity in the policy of a constant enlargement of responsibility, and of a steady improvement in the provision.

(ii.) In Poor Law Schools

The main pre-occupation of the Central Authority since 1871, so far as children are concerned, has been the increase, progressive improvement, and novel development of the Poor Law school entirely removed from the workhouse. The recommendations and incitements to boards of guardians to remove from the workhouse the healthy children of school age are incessant down to 1900. Such children are ordinarily accommodated in Poor Law schools, either district schools, where these exist, or much more frequently “separated” or “workhouse schools,” which may be of the old aggregated type, or “cottage homes” or “scattered homes.” The dramatic change from the views of 1850 is the abandonment of the “district school.” The aggregated type, held in such esteem previously to 1871, fell gradually into disfavour, and is now known as the “barrack school.” Already in 1871 Mr. Corbett was criticising these schools as being far too large (as well as too indiscriminate in the kind of children admitted) to be really successful. After repeated outbreaks of malignant ophthalmia, and continued experience of the mental draw-backs, especially of the large girls’ schools, the Central Authority abandoned its policy, and presently came to decline to sanction proposals which would have the effect of “extending the large schools in the Metropolis and … most readily entertain any proposals for applying to other purposes any of these large buildings, subject to other provision of a suitable character being made for the children.” The barrack school system grew up out of the five Metropolitan school districts; these also therefore shared in the condemnation, and in 1899 two had been dissolved.

A “separate school” belonging to a single union or separate parish would naturally be much smaller than a district school, but nothing is said as to the merits or demerits of an aggregated school of moderate size. The method which seems to have won the approval of the Central Authority is that of “cottage homes,” or the “block system,” under which children are grouped in bodies of not more than twenty-five or thirty in separate houses on a common ground of considerable acreage, and with suitable common buildings, such as baths, chapels, etc., under the supervision, not only of “house-mothers,” but also of a superintendent of the whole. Since 1894 the Board have constantly approved the erection of schools on this plan; they always require that the cottage homes should be entirely separated from the workhouse. The outstanding feature of this system is the great expense.

An alternative plan is that of “scattered homes,” i.e. cottages taken here and there throughout the union, not adjacent to each other, wherein the children live under the care of matrons or foster parents, and whence they attend the public elementary schools. In some cases the results of this system have been good, but the Central Authority received reports of certain cases of bad management, which made it cautious in regard to other proposals in that direction. The adoption of the system in Camberwell was sanctioned on the conditions that the guardians could satisfy the Central Authority that they could get proper houses for the scattered homes, and also that they could be quite sure of having an adequate system of inspection.

Notwithstanding the great expense of these highly elaborated boarding-schools for the indoor pauper boys and girls-an expense reaching between ?100 and ?200 capital, and between ?30 and ?50 annual maintenance, for each child-we see the Central Authority constantly pressing for their multiplication. The very idea of “less eligibility” has been forgotten by the inspectors. To quote one of them in 1902: “The number and nature of obstacles (to the removal of children from the workhouse) conjured up in the minds of many of the country guardians is,” he says, “quite surprising. One idea, which proves a great stumbling-block, is that the children will be put in a position above their deserts, and above that of the children living in their own homes with their parents.”

On 1st January 1906, the total number of children in “district or separate schools” was no more than 12,393, whilst in “cottage and other homes” there were 14,590; and 11,368 were in other institutions (mostly certified industrial schools, conducted by philanthropic committees not for profit).

(iii.) The Workhouse Children

Notwithstanding the desire of the Central Authority to remove the children from the workhouses, there remained on 1st January 1906 no fewer than 21,526 in these institutions. The Central Authority has, for instance, never objected to the retention in workhouses of children of tender years, or of children of any age, in the interval before they can be sent to school. In 1889, indeed, it was especially forbidden to send children to separate schools under the age of three. Though no alteration has been made in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, by which the internal economy of the workhouse is professedly governed, the Central Authority laid it down in 1895 that “in every workhouse in which there are several children too young to attend school, a separate nursery-dry, spacious, light, and well ventilated-should be provided, and should be suitably furnished.”

The children are always to be under the supervision of paid officers, a recommendation made in the days of the Poor Law Board, but still up to 1895 frequently urged-showing that at any rate till then it had not been effectively insisted on. Even in that year the Board had to write: “In no case should the care of young children be entrusted to inferior or weak-minded inmates”-a qualification which weakens the force of the prohibition of the use of paupers at all. “Unless young children are placed under responsible supervision they cannot be said to be ‘properly taken care of'”; and again, more generally, “all children in workhouses should be under the charge of officers, either industrial trainers or caretakers, and should not be left to the charge of adult paupers.” The medical officer is responsible for the children’s health, and with a view to the prevention of disease he is expected to inspect them, whether they are ill or not, “frequently and individually.” In this connection may be mentioned a “Memorandum relative to Ophthalmia of New-born Children,” in which the Board requested medical officers to give each nurse or midwife acting under their directions such written instructions as they might deem necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject. In 1882 the Central Authority refused to sanction any women’s committee; but by 1897 the guardians were urged to appoint women’s committees for the supervision of the women and children in the workhouse.

It is interesting to trace the growth of opinion with regard to the provision for the children of means of enjoyment. For half a century after 1834 the Central Authority allowed no toys whatever for all its tens of thousands of indoor children of all ages. An auditor in 1883 disallowed sums spent on toys for sick children, and Mr. Hibbert was questioned in Parliament. He said “there have been similar disallowances previously, and the Local Government Board, while relieving the persons surcharged of their liability, have held that expenditure of this character should be defrayed by private liberality, rather than out of rates compulsorily levied.” The disallowances had therefore hitherto been confirmed, the payments being thus decided to be actually illegal. “The subject,” continued Mr. Hibbert, “had been considered in connection with the recent surcharge, and it is proposed to hold that the expenditure was within the legal powers of the guardians, and the auditor will be communicated with, with a view to a reversal of his decision.” It is not clear which of these conflicting decisions of the Central Authority was in accordance with law.

In 1891 the Board wrote: “The supply of illustrated books and periodicals of children is especially desirable. Admirable publications of this class can now be obtained at a very small cost, and where it appears to be necessary an expenditure by the guardians for this purpose should, in the Board’s opinion, be urged upon them. The question of the provision of bats, balls, skipping-ropes, etc., for the children and toys for the infants, is also one which the Board are desirous should receive the attention of the inspectors on the occasion of their inspections of the workhouses.”

“Special care should be taken that a sufficient part of each day is set apart for recreation only, and that the children should be allowed to take exercise frequently outside the workhouse premises, and that they should be encouraged in healthy games of all sorts.” The guardians were allowed to take girls from the Forest Gate Schools to see the sights of London, provided the places visited were approved by the school inspector, and also to pay a donation to the funds of a Band of Hope, when the Poor Law children were allowed to share in the work of the society.

In recent years, we see the inspectorate urging that even children of tender years ought not to live in the workhouse. This is a new idea which has not yet received more formal endorsement. As children under three may not, by the Central Authority’s own order of 10th February 1899, be sent to a separate Poor Law school, there is as yet no place for them but the workhouse. “Nothing has been said,” observed Mr. Jenner Fust, in 1901, “about the nursery children, at present retained at the workhouse till three years old, or even more, though the case of these requires attention as much as that of the older ones. They are almost always largely under the care of inmates, and the conditions are seldom improved even when these inmates are their own mothers…. I cannot but think that nursery homes with trained nurses as foster-mothers should form part of the equipment of all cottage homes, or, if a separate receiving home be established, the nursery children might conveniently be placed there, the removal from the workhouse not being delayed beyond the period when a child is able to walk.”

With regard to the education of the older workhouse children the Central Authority has changed its policy. It does not actually forbid the guardians to arrange for a school within the workhouse, which was the policy of 1850. But the plan now favoured is to send them out to the public elementary schools, as is also done when they are placed in scattered homes. At first the Central Authority only sanctioned this course with reluctance, only when the number of such children was small, and with special recommendations as to the appointment of officers to supervise the children out of school hours and impart industrial training. In the case of one union, they “urged the guardians to reconsider the question, with a view to the appointment either of a caretaker of the children or a porter, who could give that attention to the boys when in the workhouse which was of such importance to their future welfare.” Later, perhaps, when the principle of paid “caretakers” had become more fully accepted, the Central Authority gave the system much more hearty support, noted its prevalence with satisfaction, and considered it highly desirable that children in Poor Law establishments should thus be given opportunities of mixing with other children.

When there is a choice of elementary schools, each child should be sent to the one conducted according to its own religious creed, and it was also recommended that the children should be sent out to Sunday schools of their own denomination. This denomination is ordinarily that of the child’s parents, but if the religion is not known, he is to be brought up in the Church of England: if the father changes his creed, that of the child changes also.

While in the workhouse the children are to receive instruction in industrial and manual work, but the Board strongly resisted proposals for sending them out to work in factories.

Subject to these conditions, the 21,526 children living in the workhouse remain there to the knowledge and with the sanction of the Central Authority-at least, this is what the guardians contend, and, so far as we can discover, there is no order, circular, or minute to the contrary.

Meanwhile the guardians are pressed to bestow on them an amount of salaried care and expensive attention that surprises the more old-fashioned among them, who have not yet quite abandoned the principle of “less eligibility.” “One matter of some interest,” says Mr. Baldwyn Fleming in 1902, “is the curious reluctance displayed by country guardians to have the children’s teeth cared for.” The argument used is, “The ratepayers do not take their children to the dentist, and why should we do so?” (in the case of the indoor Poor Law children.)

(iv.) The Education of the Indoor Pauper Child

Down to 1897 the Central Authority had contemplated and recognised in its orders and circulars that the pauper children would spend only about half the school time in ordinary school subjects, the other half being devoted to what was euphemistically called “industrial training.” This meant, in practice, the employment of the children in domestic work, gardening, mending clothes or boots, and so on, the persons selected as “industrial trainers” not being required to have any pedagogic qualifications or power to teach, and being paid in fact only at workmen’s rates. In 1897, the rapid abandonment of the half-time system outside the workhouse led to a great advance. By the Order of that year, which governs all Poor Law schools, whether they are in workhouses or district or separate schools, the half-time system is greatly discouraged. Industrial training takes a subordinate place. The Order fixes the number of hours during which the children are to be under school instruction, and provides for a ten minutes’ rest in every attendance of two hours or more, limits the number of hours which may be occupied in manual or industrial work, and provides for one whole holiday or two half-holidays in each week, in addition to allowing six weeks’ holidays in the year if the guardians choose to grant it. One object of the Order was to secure that children should not be unduly pressed with manual or industrial work in addition to the school instruction. The religious teaching required by any Orders in force is to be given in addition to the school hours. In 1877 it had been ordered that any time which might be devoted to drill or industrial training, other than a reasonable time for needlework, in the case of girls, should not be included in the time prescribed for attendance. The present Order, in more general terms, allows school instruction to include “any of the subjects for which grants may be made under the Code of Regulations of the Education Department, for the time being in force, except cookery, laundry work, dairy work, or cottage gardening.” Of the time allowed for needlework, not more than one-third is to be spent in mending; the rest is to be occupied in plain needlework, knitting, and cutting out and making garments. When children attend school for half-time, it is preferred that they shall receive the school instruction in the morning, and the industrial training in the afternoon. There is now no superior limit to the education that may be provided for a pauper child within the proper ages. As early as 1878 payment for the attendance of the workhouse girls at a school of cookery was held to be legal. Guardians are allowed to pay the fees for the instruction of the children at a technical institute when they see fit to do so, quite irrespective of whether or not the children of the poorest independent labourer can get such advantages.

It may be noted that a Special Order of 30th April 1887 (not mentioned in the Annual Reports, or otherwise communicated to boards of guardians) enables the Forest Gate District School to allow a class of the elder girls to go out and buy their food, spending not more than 3s. 6d. a week each, and prepare it for their own consumption, so as to get some practical experience of ordinary life. By another Order of 5th August 1889, the children in this one school are allowed to buy their own outfits (up to ?3 10s.). We do not find that the Central Authority has yet made these privileges general, nor extended them to any other indoor pauper children.

On 1st April 1904, the responsibility for the inspection of the education of the Poor Law Schools, and of pauper children in certified schools, was transferred to the Board of Education thus reverting to the policy prior to 1863.

(v.) Boarding-out

The boarding-out system was in 1871 still on its trial, having been authorised for scarcely a year, and the Central Authority was very guarded in expressing any opinion on its merits; it gradually won favour, but while mildly encouraging it the Central Authority would do nothing to force its growth. In 1900 it was referred to as one method of removing children from the workhouse, but it was never thought likely to become a practical means for dealing with the mass of pauper children, as a substitute either for ordinary outdoor relief or for Poor Law schools.

Boarding-out beyond the union had been first regulated by the Order of 25th November 1870. In 1877 it was found that boarding-out within the union was being largely practised, it being, as the Central Authority had itself held, legally only ordinary out-relief, requiring no sanction. This also was then regulated by a General Order.Both these Orders were re-issued with slight modifications in 1889, the former to every union in the country, the latter to all but the most populous town unions. Again, in 1905, the Order for boarding-out beyond the union was slightly altered and re-issued.

The operation of these Orders was limited to certain classes of children; in 1877 to those deserted by their parents, or whose parents were dead, undergoing penal servitude, suffering from mental disease, or out of England; by the Orders of 1889, children whose parents were permanently bedridden or disabled were added to the list; and in 1905 children adopted by the guardians were formally included, as such children could previously only be boarded out if they were also orphan or deserted according to the definition. The Central Authority refused its sanction to a proposal to board out the illegitimate children of able-bodied women in the workhouse. It was twice decided that when out-relief is given to a child living with a person not legally liable for its support, such child must be considered as boarded out. There is no age limit for boarding-out within the union, but a child may not be first boarded out beyond the union under two, nor when over ten, unless in the same home with a brother or sister under that age.

In view of this gradual adoption of the boarding-out system as a permanent form of the treatment of children under the Poor Law, it is instructive to compare the requirements which the Central Authority makes to ensure the proper maintenance of the boarded-out children with the policy just described in respect of the children on ordinary outdoor relief.

The various Orders all lay practically the same duties on the foster-parent. He is to sign an undertaking that: “He will bring up the child as one of his own children, and provide the child with proper food, lodging and washing, and endeavour to train the child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry, as well as in suitable domestic and outdoor work, so far as may be consistent with the law; that he will take care that the child shall attend duly at church or chapel according to the religious creed to which the child belongs, and shall attend school according to the provisions of the law for the time being; that he will provide for the proper repair and renewal of the child’s clothing, and that in case of the child’s illness he will forthwith report such illness to the guardians and to the boarding-out committee; and that he will at all times permit the child to be visited and the house to be inspected by any member of the boarding-out committee, and by any person specially appointed for that purpose by the guardians or by the Local Government Board. The undertaking shall also contain an engagement on the part of the foster-parent that he will, upon the demand of a person duly authorised in writing by the boarding-out committee, or by the guardians, give up possession of the child.” The 1905 undertaking is slightly different in terms, the chief variation being an omission of the reference t

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also

Children and the Local Government Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: (i.) On Outdoor Relief

There seems to have been, so far as regards children, no explicit change in policy in 1871. To take first the 336,870 children under sixteen who were on outdoor relief on 1st January 1871-almost exactly one-third of the aggregate pauperism-we see continued the same ignoring of their general condition. We do not find that the inspectors ever investigated what was happening to these children or that the Central Authority ever made any official inquiry, still less issued any order, on the subject. The general policy of restricting outdoor relief, which we have sufficiently described, had incidentally the effect, in the course of twenty years, of reducing the number of children on outdoor relief by nearly one-half.

On one point, indeed, that of education, as we have seen, Parliament had explicitly over-ridden the implied contention that the Poor Law Authorities had no responsibility for the welfare of the children on outdoor relief. The policy of Denison’s Act of 1855, which had been comparatively little acted upon, was extended in 1873 so as to make it compulsory on boards of guardians to see that such children between five and thirteen were regularly at school. The guardians were even required to pay the school fees for children-even illegitimate children-who were not paupers, if they needed this, and the parents did not thereby become paupers.We see the Central Authority communicating these decisions of the Legislature without comment, and the boards of guardians carrying them out as they chose;sometimes even taking it upon themselves to petition the Education Department to relax the requirement of schooling after twelve, as being hard on the parent, useless to the child, and leading to “much necessary work being left undone,” especially “the eradication of pernicious weeds.”

We may see further imposition of responsibility on the boards of guardians for the well-being of the children of the poor, in the series of Acts for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Already in 1868 boards of guardians had been expressly directed by statute to institute proceedings against parents who neglected their children.In 1888 the Central Authority reminded the guardians of the power they had thus had for twenty years, without often making use of it. In 1889 Parliament enacted that any person having the custody of a child under sixteen who “wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes such child, or causes or procures such child to be ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to its health, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour,” and that the guardians might, “out of the funds under their control, pay the reasonable costs and expenses of any proceedings” which they direct to be taken. They were not definitely required to take such proceedings, but Parliament laid the duty upon them to do so. The Act of 1894 made the provisions more explicit, and defined injury to health so as to include “injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement.”

These statutes were applicable, among others, to the 170,000 children on outdoor relief, many of whom were plainly underfed, housed in insanitary conditions, half-clothed, and generally treated in a manner “likely to cause injury” to their health; but we do not find that the boards of guardians realised the great increase of power and responsibility thus entrusted to them. The Central Authority, which observed mildly that Parliament evidently meant the guardians to institute proceedings, did not point out to them the applicability of the new statutes to the children on outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians, so far as we can ascertain, seldom or never acted on them. In 1904, accordingly, the power to pay the expenses of prosecution was transferred to county and borough authorities, so that the guardians ceased to be responsible for taking proceedings; but the workhouse remains a “place of safety” to which a constable or other person authorised by a Justice may take a child, the guardians are required to provide for the reception of any child so brought to the workhouse, and the master is bound to admit such child if there is sufficient accommodation.

After 1890 we find the responsibility of the Poor Law authorities for all the outdoor paupers beginning to be recognised by the inspectorate. “The absolute responsibility of the guardians for the material well-being of every one who is in receipt of outdoor relief,” said Mr. Davy in 1893, had been officially recognised by the District Nurses Order, to which we shall recur. “If any relief at all is given to an applicant,” Mr. Davy laid it down, “it is the plain duty of the guardians to take precautions to insure that … the pauper is sufficiently fed, clothed, and lodged.” This was notoriously not the case in many unions, the children especially being in an evil plight. “In many unions,” said Mr. Baldwyn Fleming, in 1891, “the relieving officer and the inspector of nuisances could show guardians cases … where large families are living in cottages too small for them, and the accommodation is in almost every respect unsatisfactory, where the children have little but rags to cover them by day or night, where school attendance is avoided to the utmost, where the feeding only just escapes starvation, where the physical and moral education of the children are equally impracticable, where infant life is one constant struggle with misery and privation.” The demoralising association of the outdoor pauper children with the pay-station was specially denounced by another inspector. “What,” he said, “is the sense, I would ask-I do ask in board rooms-of all this trouble and outlay to put the children into cottage homes or scattered homes, to keep them, in fact, altogether away from the workhouse, if while doing all this the very same authority permit the precisely similar children of the outdoor poor to haunt the pay-stations, to hang about workhouse gates, or to sit mixed up in waiting-rooms with adult paupers…. The children, early in life, often at times when they ought to be at school, have their eyes opened to the facility with which by exaggerating your impecunious condition, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week can be got without the labour of earning it…. The master of one of the board schools had written … to complain that three children systematically were kept from school on a particular day of the week for the purpose of drawing relief due to their parents.”

We cannot find, however, any order, minute, or circular explicitly taking official cognisance of the condition of these children (except in respect of the statutory requirement of school attendance); nor do the boards of guardians seem to have taken any trouble to inquire into their condition. In 1901 the Central Authority had reported to it, at its special request (in connection with the adequacy of the amount granted, especially for the aged), the amounts usually given in outdoor relief. In the majority of unions it must then have appeared that the amount allowed for the support of each child on outdoor relief was either the 1s. and one loaf per week, which had had the sanction of Mr. Corbett in 1869, or frequently 1s. 6d. per week. The Bradford Board of Guardians, however, if no other, reported that it allowed to deserving widows with dependent children 4s. for the first child, 3s. for the second, and 2s. for each additional child (besides 5s. for the mother herself). We do not find that any official view has been expressed as to this diversity.

At the very end of the period we find Parliament suddenly insisting on the responsibility of the boards of guardians for the condition, not only of the children on outdoor relief, but of all children in so far as sufficiency of food is concerned. By the Act of 1906 special provision is made for children at school who are in need of food. This Act, embodied in a General Order, was communicated to boards of guardians in a circular which explains the exact degree of responsibility which, in the opinion of the Central Authority, Parliament has thereby imposed on them. A parent is bound to supply his children with necessary food, and if he is unable to do so should apply to the guardians for help. When a father, being able to supply food, neglects to do so, or being unable neglects to apply to the guardians, so that the child is underfed, a “special application” on behalf of the child may be made to the guardians or relieving officer “by the managers, or by a teacher duly empowered by the managers, of a public elementary school, or by an officer duly empowered by the local education authority.” If the food is urgently needed it is to be supplied at once, as a loan to the father, and he is to be informed as soon as possible that it has been so given. When there is no such urgency, the father is to be informed that food will be supplied before it is given, that he may have the opportunity of providing it himself; and the guardians are to inquire whether the need is due to habitual neglect; if it is so, the relief shall (and in any case it may) be given on loan.

Whenever relief under this order is given on loan, the guardians are obliged to take proceedings for its recovery, unless the Local Government Board specially approves of their not doing so, which approval would only be obtainable in very special circumstances, e.g. if it were obviously impossible to recover the amount. It is held to be particularly important that these proceedings should always be taken, as they are the only means of safeguarding against abuse, for the rule that, as a condition of relief, the able-bodied father must enter the workhouse or be set to work by the guardians is specially abrogated in cases under this order, as being inapplicable to them. The order does not apply to any child who is blind or deaf and dumb, nor in the case of any relative except the father, nor if the child is not resident with the father. Relief is not to be ordered on a “special application” for a longer period than one month. “Where a special application is renewed within a short time, say six months, after the expiration of the period for which the relief has been given, and further relief has to be allowed, or where within this period special application is made and relief is given in respect of some other member of the same family, and the cause of the application is the habitual neglect of the father to provide food, the Board think that the guardians should consider whether the case is one in which proceedings could be taken against the father, either under the Vagrancy Act 1824, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904.”

Finally, the Board “trust that the boards of guardians, particularly those of populous unions in which cases of underfed children more frequently occur, will endeavour to co-operate with the local education authorities in dealing with really necessitous cases, whilst exercising due discrimination so as to avoid the pauperisation and consequent disfranchisement of parents who ought not to be brought under the Poor Law.”

The number of outdoor pauper children is now slightly more than in 1892, there being on 1st January 1906, 179,870 such, 96,804 being widows’ children, 72,721 children with both parents or with fathers only, and 10,345 having no parents.

Turning now to the much smaller number of children in Poor Law institutions, of whom there were on January 1st 1871, 55,832 (together with a very small number “boarded out”), we see a similar continuity of policy in the Central Authority, but in these cases it is continuity in the policy of a constant enlargement of responsibility, and of a steady improvement in the provision.

(ii.) In Poor Law Schools

The main pre-occupation of the Central Authority since 1871, so far as children are concerned, has been the increase, progressive improvement, and novel development of the Poor Law school entirely removed from the workhouse. The recommendations and incitements to boards of guardians to remove from the workhouse the healthy children of school age are incessant down to 1900. Such children are ordinarily accommodated in Poor Law schools, either district schools, where these exist, or much more frequently “separated” or “workhouse schools,” which may be of the old aggregated type, or “cottage homes” or “scattered homes.” The dramatic change from the views of 1850 is the abandonment of the “district school.” The aggregated type, held in such esteem previously to 1871, fell gradually into disfavour, and is now known as the “barrack school.” Already in 1871 Mr. Corbett was criticising these schools as being far too large (as well as too indiscriminate in the kind of children admitted) to be really successful. After repeated outbreaks of malignant ophthalmia, and continued experience of the mental draw-backs, especially of the large girls’ schools, the Central Authority abandoned its policy, and presently came to decline to sanction proposals which would have the effect of “extending the large schools in the Metropolis and … most readily entertain any proposals for applying to other purposes any of these large buildings, subject to other provision of a suitable character being made for the children.” The barrack school system grew up out of the five Metropolitan school districts; these also therefore shared in the condemnation, and in 1899 two had been dissolved.

A “separate school” belonging to a single union or separate parish would naturally be much smaller than a district school, but nothing is said as to the merits or demerits of an aggregated school of moderate size. The method which seems to have won the approval of the Central Authority is that of “cottage homes,” or the “block system,” under which children are grouped in bodies of not more than twenty-five or thirty in separate houses on a common ground of considerable acreage, and with suitable common buildings, such as baths, chapels, etc., under the supervision, not only of “house-mothers,” but also of a superintendent of the whole. Since 1894 the Board have constantly approved the erection of schools on this plan; they always require that the cottage homes should be entirely separated from the workhouse. The outstanding feature of this system is the great expense.

An alternative plan is that of “scattered homes,” i.e. cottages taken here and there throughout the union, not adjacent to each other, wherein the children live under the care of matrons or foster parents, and whence they attend the public elementary schools. In some cases the results of this system have been good, but the Central Authority received reports of certain cases of bad management, which made it cautious in regard to other proposals in that direction. The adoption of the system in Camberwell was sanctioned on the conditions that the guardians could satisfy the Central Authority that they could get proper houses for the scattered homes, and also that they could be quite sure of having an adequate system of inspection.

Notwithstanding the great expense of these highly elaborated boarding-schools for the indoor pauper boys and girls-an expense reaching between ?100 and ?200 capital, and between ?30 and ?50 annual maintenance, for each child-we see the Central Authority constantly pressing for their multiplication. The very idea of “less eligibility” has been forgotten by the inspectors. To quote one of them in 1902: “The number and nature of obstacles (to the removal of children from the workhouse) conjured up in the minds of many of the country guardians is,” he says, “quite surprising. One idea, which proves a great stumbling-block, is that the children will be put in a position above their deserts, and above that of the children living in their own homes with their parents.”

On 1st January 1906, the total number of children in “district or separate schools” was no more than 12,393, whilst in “cottage and other homes” there were 14,590; and 11,368 were in other institutions (mostly certified industrial schools, conducted by philanthropic committees not for profit).

(iii.) The Workhouse Children

Notwithstanding the desire of the Central Authority to remove the children from the workhouses, there remained on 1st January 1906 no fewer than 21,526 in these institutions. The Central Authority has, for instance, never objected to the retention in workhouses of children of tender years, or of children of any age, in the interval before they can be sent to school. In 1889, indeed, it was especially forbidden to send children to separate schools under the age of three. Though no alteration has been made in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, by which the internal economy of the workhouse is professedly governed, the Central Authority laid it down in 1895 that “in every workhouse in which there are several children too young to attend school, a separate nursery-dry, spacious, light, and well ventilated-should be provided, and should be suitably furnished.”

The children are always to be under the supervision of paid officers, a recommendation made in the days of the Poor Law Board, but still up to 1895 frequently urged-showing that at any rate till then it had not been effectively insisted on. Even in that year the Board had to write: “In no case should the care of young children be entrusted to inferior or weak-minded inmates”-a qualification which weakens the force of the prohibition of the use of paupers at all. “Unless young children are placed under responsible supervision they cannot be said to be ‘properly taken care of'”; and again, more generally, “all children in workhouses should be under the charge of officers, either industrial trainers or caretakers, and should not be left to the charge of adult paupers.” The medical officer is responsible for the children’s health, and with a view to the prevention of disease he is expected to inspect them, whether they are ill or not, “frequently and individually.” In this connection may be mentioned a “Memorandum relative to Ophthalmia of New-born Children,” in which the Board requested medical officers to give each nurse or midwife acting under their directions such written instructions as they might deem necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject. In 1882 the Central Authority refused to sanction any women’s committee; but by 1897 the guardians were urged to appoint women’s committees for the supervision of the women and children in the workhouse.

It is interesting to trace the growth of opinion with regard to the provision for the children of means of enjoyment. For half a century after 1834 the Central Authority allowed no toys whatever for all its tens of thousands of indoor children of all ages. An auditor in 1883 disallowed sums spent on toys for sick children, and Mr. Hibbert was questioned in Parliament. He said “there have been similar disallowances previously, and the Local Government Board, while relieving the persons surcharged of their liability, have held that expenditure of this character should be defrayed by private liberality, rather than out of rates compulsorily levied.” The disallowances had therefore hitherto been confirmed, the payments being thus decided to be actually illegal. “The subject,” continued Mr. Hibbert, “had been considered in connection with the recent surcharge, and it is proposed to hold that the expenditure was within the legal powers of the guardians, and the auditor will be communicated with, with a view to a reversal of his decision.” It is not clear which of these conflicting decisions of the Central Authority was in accordance with law.

In 1891 the Board wrote: “The supply of illustrated books and periodicals of children is especially desirable. Admirable publications of this class can now be obtained at a very small cost, and where it appears to be necessary an expenditure by the guardians for this purpose should, in the Board’s opinion, be urged upon them. The question of the provision of bats, balls, skipping-ropes, etc., for the children and toys for the infants, is also one which the Board are desirous should receive the attention of the inspectors on the occasion of their inspections of the workhouses.”

“Special care should be taken that a sufficient part of each day is set apart for recreation only, and that the children should be allowed to take exercise frequently outside the workhouse premises, and that they should be encouraged in healthy games of all sorts.” The guardians were allowed to take girls from the Forest Gate Schools to see the sights of London, provided the places visited were approved by the school inspector, and also to pay a donation to the funds of a Band of Hope, when the Poor Law children were allowed to share in the work of the society.

In recent years, we see the inspectorate urging that even children of tender years ought not to live in the workhouse. This is a new idea which has not yet received more formal endorsement. As children under three may not, by the Central Authority’s own order of 10th February 1899, be sent to a separate Poor Law school, there is as yet no place for them but the workhouse. “Nothing has been said,” observed Mr. Jenner Fust, in 1901, “about the nursery children, at present retained at the workhouse till three years old, or even more, though the case of these requires attention as much as that of the older ones. They are almost always largely under the care of inmates, and the conditions are seldom improved even when these inmates are their own mothers…. I cannot but think that nursery homes with trained nurses as foster-mothers should form part of the equipment of all cottage homes, or, if a separate receiving home be established, the nursery children might conveniently be placed there, the removal from the workhouse not being delayed beyond the period when a child is able to walk.”

With regard to the education of the older workhouse children the Central Authority has changed its policy. It does not actually forbid the guardians to arrange for a school within the workhouse, which was the policy of 1850. But the plan now favoured is to send them out to the public elementary schools, as is also done when they are placed in scattered homes. At first the Central Authority only sanctioned this course with reluctance, only when the number of such children was small, and with special recommendations as to the appointment of officers to supervise the children out of school hours and impart industrial training. In the case of one union, they “urged the guardians to reconsider the question, with a view to the appointment either of a caretaker of the children or a porter, who could give that attention to the boys when in the workhouse which was of such importance to their future welfare.” Later, perhaps, when the principle of paid “caretakers” had become more fully accepted, the Central Authority gave the system much more hearty support, noted its prevalence with satisfaction, and considered it highly desirable that children in Poor Law establishments should thus be given opportunities of mixing with other children.

When there is a choice of elementary schools, each child should be sent to the one conducted according to its own religious creed, and it was also recommended that the children should be sent out to Sunday schools of their own denomination. This denomination is ordinarily that of the child’s parents, but if the religion is not known, he is to be brought up in the Church of England: if the father changes his creed, that of the child changes also.

While in the workhouse the children are to receive instruction in industrial and manual work, but the Board strongly resisted proposals for sending them out to work in factories.

Subject to these conditions, the 21,526 children living in the workhouse remain there to the knowledge and with the sanction of the Central Authority-at least, this is what the guardians contend, and, so far as we can discover, there is no order, circular, or minute to the contrary.

Meanwhile the guardians are pressed to bestow on them an amount of salaried care and expensive attention that surprises the more old-fashioned among them, who have not yet quite abandoned the principle of “less eligibility.” “One matter of some interest,” says Mr. Baldwyn Fleming in 1902, “is the curious reluctance displayed by country guardians to have the children’s teeth cared for.” The argument used is, “The ratepayers do not take their children to the dentist, and why should we do so?” (in the case of the indoor Poor Law children.)

(iv.) The Education of the Indoor Pauper Child

Down to 1897 the Central Authority had contemplated and recognised in its orders and circulars that the pauper children would spend only about half the school time in ordinary school subjects, the other half being devoted to what was euphemistically called “industrial training.” This meant, in practice, the employment of the children in domestic work, gardening, mending clothes or boots, and so on, the persons selected as “industrial trainers” not being required to have any pedagogic qualifications or power to teach, and being paid in fact only at workmen’s rates. In 1897, the rapid abandonment of the half-time system outside the workhouse led to a great advance. By the Order of that year, which governs all Poor Law schools, whether they are in workhouses or district or separate schools, the half-time system is greatly discouraged. Industrial training takes a subordinate place. The Order fixes the number of hours during which the children are to be under school instruction, and provides for a ten minutes’ rest in every attendance of two hours or more, limits the number of hours which may be occupied in manual or industrial work, and provides for one whole holiday or two half-holidays in each week, in addition to allowing six weeks’ holidays in the year if the guardians choose to grant it. One object of the Order was to secure that children should not be unduly pressed with manual or industrial work in addition to the school instruction. The religious teaching required by any Orders in force is to be given in addition to the school hours. In 1877 it had been ordered that any time which might be devoted to drill or industrial training, other than a reasonable time for needlework, in the case of girls, should not be included in the time prescribed for attendance. The present Order, in more general terms, allows school instruction to include “any of the subjects for which grants may be made under the Code of Regulations of the Education Department, for the time being in force, except cookery, laundry work, dairy work, or cottage gardening.” Of the time allowed for needlework, not more than one-third is to be spent in mending; the rest is to be occupied in plain needlework, knitting, and cutting out and making garments. When children attend school for half-time, it is preferred that they shall receive the school instruction in the morning, and the industrial training in the afternoon. There is now no superior limit to the education that may be provided for a pauper child within the proper ages. As early as 1878 payment for the attendance of the workhouse girls at a school of cookery was held to be legal. Guardians are allowed to pay the fees for the instruction of the children at a technical institute when they see fit to do so, quite irrespective of whether or not the children of the poorest independent labourer can get such advantages.

It may be noted that a Special Order of 30th April 1887 (not mentioned in the Annual Reports, or otherwise communicated to boards of guardians) enables the Forest Gate District School to allow a class of the elder girls to go out and buy their food, spending not more than 3s. 6d. a week each, and prepare it for their own consumption, so as to get some practical experience of ordinary life. By another Order of 5th August 1889, the children in this one school are allowed to buy their own outfits (up to ?3 10s.). We do not find that the Central Authority has yet made these privileges general, nor extended them to any other indoor pauper children.

On 1st April 1904, the responsibility for the inspection of the education of the Poor Law Schools, and of pauper children in certified schools, was transferred to the Board of Education thus reverting to the policy prior to 1863.

(v.) Boarding-out

The boarding-out system was in 1871 still on its trial, having been authorised for scarcely a year, and the Central Authority was very guarded in expressing any opinion on its merits; it gradually won favour, but while mildly encouraging it the Central Authority would do nothing to force its growth. In 1900 it was referred to as one method of removing children from the workhouse, but it was never thought likely to become a practical means for dealing with the mass of pauper children, as a substitute either for ordinary outdoor relief or for Poor Law schools.

Boarding-out beyond the union had been first regulated by the Order of 25th November 1870. In 1877 it was found that boarding-out within the union was being largely practised, it being, as the Central Authority had itself held, legally only ordinary out-relief, requiring no sanction. This also was then regulated by a General Order.Both these Orders were re-issued with slight modifications in 1889, the former to every union in the country, the latter to all but the most populous town unions. Again, in 1905, the Order for boarding-out beyond the union was slightly altered and re-issued.

The operation of these Orders was limited to certain classes of children; in 1877 to those deserted by their parents, or whose parents were dead, undergoing penal servitude, suffering from mental disease, or out of England; by the Orders of 1889, children whose parents were permanently bedridden or disabled were added to the list; and in 1905 children adopted by the guardians were formally included, as such children could previously only be boarded out if they were also orphan or deserted according to the definition. The Central Authority refused its sanction to a proposal to board out the illegitimate children of able-bodied women in the workhouse. It was twice decided that when out-relief is given to a child living with a person not legally liable for its support, such child must be considered as boarded out. There is no age limit for boarding-out within the union, but a child may not be first boarded out beyond the union under two, nor when over ten, unless in the same home with a brother or sister under that age.

In view of this gradual adoption of the boarding-out system as a permanent form of the treatment of children under the Poor Law, it is instructive to compare the requirements which the Central Authority makes to ensure the proper maintenance of the boarded-out children with the policy just described in respect of the children on ordinary outdoor relief.

The various Orders all lay practically the same duties on the foster-parent. He is to sign an undertaking that: “He will bring up the child as one of his own children, and provide the child with proper food, lodging and washing, and endeavour to train the child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry, as well as in suitable domestic and outdoor work, so far as may be consistent with the law; that he will take care that the child shall attend duly at church or chapel according to the religious creed to which the child belongs, and shall attend school according to the provisions of the law for the time being; that he will provide for the proper repair and renewal of the child’s clothing, and that in case of the child’s illness he will forthwith report such illness to the guardians and to the boarding-out committee; and that he will at all times permit the child to be visited and the house to be inspected by any member of the boarding-out committee, and by any person specially appointed for that purpose by the guardians or by the Local Government Board. The undertaking shall also contain an engagement on the part of the foster-parent that he will, upon the demand of a person duly authorised in writing by the boarding-out committee, or by the guardians, give up possession of the child.” The 1905 undertaking is slightly different in terms, the chief variation being an omission of the reference t

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also

Children and the Poor Law Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: It was with regard to children that the policy of the Central Authority in this period made the greatest advance. This, however, applies chiefly to the 40,000 children who were being relieved in institutions. With regard to the children being maintained on outdoor relief-who were at least five times as numerous-we do not find that the Central Authority in this period took any cognisance of their condition, except to some small extent with regard to their schooling. Even this was a new feature. In 1844, as already mentioned, the Central Authority had expressly refused to allow 2d. a week to be paid for the schooling of such a child, or even to permit that sum to be added to the outdoor relief to the parent with the same object. This decision was emphasised by a Circular in 1847, laying down that pauper children living at home were not to be educated at the expense of the poor rate. For years the Manchester Board of Guardians, under the leadership of Mr. Hodgson, had tried to get some of their outdoor pauper children to school, the guardians actually maintaining a primitive day school of their own for this purpose. The Central Authority refused to sanction this experiment, forbade its extension, questioned the lawfulness of the guardians’ action, and between 1850 and 1855 seems always to have been complaining about it. In 1855, however, Parliament reversed the policy of non-responsibility for outdoor pauper children, so far as to allow the boards of guardians, if they chose, to pay for the schooling of such children between the ages of four and sixteen. They were, however, expressly forbidden to make it a condition of relief that the child should attend school, for fear of exciting religious jealousies, all schools being then denominational. The Central Authority, in transmitting this statute (“Denison’s Act”) to the boards of guardians, laid stress on its permissive character. No instructions or suggestions were given as to the kind of school to be chosen, though if the guardians in their exercise of their discretion did pay the fees of any children, they were to satisfy themselves of their due attendance. But it trusted that “it will be soon brought into extensive operation,” and presently 3986 out of the 200,000 outdoor pauper children were at school. Special efforts were made during the Lancashire cotton famine to get the Act carried out, and gradually more of the boards of guardians adopted the policy. In 1870 the Elementary Education Act made education compulsory over a large part of the country, and authorised boards of guardians not only to pay fees, but also to make attendance at school a condition of relief. This, however, came as part of the educational policy of Parliament, not as part of the Poor Law policy of the Central Authority. So far as these children were concerned (though nominal fees continued to be paid out of the poor rate until 1891), the provision of schooling became merged in the general communistic provision of schooling for the whole population. By this beginning of communistic provision of education for the whole population (completed by the Free Education Act of 1891), the Poor Law authorities were enabled to escape-so far as education was concerned-from the embarrassing dilemma of either placing the pauper child in a position of vantage, or of deliberately bringing up the quarter of a million pauper children in a state of ignorance similar to that of the children of the poorest independent labourer prior to 1870. In respect of everything but education the problem remained. So far as regards the couple of hundred thousand children maintained on outdoor relief, the Central Authority left the boards of guardians without advice on this dilemma.

Passing now to the 40,000 children in Poor Law institutions, we have described how, between 1834 and 1847, the Central Authority, in disregard of the recommendations of the 1834 Report, had adopted the policy of having one common workhouse for each union, under a single head, and with an almost identical regimen for all classes of inmates. It was necessarily incidental to the policy of the Outdoor Relief Prohibitory Order which was then widely prevalent, that the wife and children of the destitute man should be relieved only in the workhouse. These institutions came, therefore, to be the homes and places of education of not only orphans and foundlings, but also of tens of thousands of other children, who were often immured in them from birth until they could be placed out in service. Apparently the idea of one general workhouse for each union, under one uniform discipline, was too deeply rooted in the Poor Law Commissioners to allow of any provision being made for children in the Orders concerning workhouse management. No provision was made for the children going out for walks or games or play. No Order required the guardians to appoint a qualified schoolmaster, or, indeed, any teacher at all, or to buy any school-books. Year after year the returns from many unions continue to state “No teachers in workhouse,” without evoking from the Central Authority any compulsory Order.

It is to the credit of the new Poor Law Board that it at once admitted that the much-vaunted general workhouse system was, so far as the children were concerned, simply manufacturing paupers. “Too many of those brought up in the workhouse,” said Mr. Charles Buller in 1848, “were marked by a tendency to regard the workhouse as their natural and proper home…. They had been accustomed to the workhouse from their earliest infancy and … to the confinement, … and when they became adults there was nothing to deter them from entering it.” The remedy now proposed was the removal of all children from the workhouses to separate Poor Law schools, and their education, irrespective of cost, in such a way “as may best tend to raise them from the class of paupers to that of independent labourers and artisans.” To attain this end the Central Authority secured another statute in amendment of the hitherto abortive Act of 1844, permitting the establishment of “district schools” by combinations of unions. But what enabled this policy to be begun in the teeth of persistent opposition was a terrible outbreak of cholera at Mr. Drouet’s establishment at Tooting, where the pauper children of many parishes had continued (as a survival of the old Poor Law, not yet interfered with by the Central Authority) to be “farmed out.”

In the course of the same year the Central Authority succeeded in forming half-a-dozen school districts, and approved the establishment of a gigantic boarding-school for each of them, accommodating 800, and even 1000 children. The General Order issued in 1849 for the government of these “district schools” did not prescribe the details of administration so precisely as did the General Consolidated Order of 1847; and much latitude was left to the enterprise of the governing body. Against the formation of these school districts the boards of guardians successfully rebelled, much preferring to have a separate school for each union, and outside London this was the system generally adopted by the more populous unions. These separate schools, which were in all cases distinct from the workhouse, were regulated by special Orders, providing in similar general terms for the elements of good administration, but also leaving much to the discretion of the guardians. The Central Authority now pressed the policy of separate schools on the boards of guardians at every opportunity. In 1856, for instance, we find it saying to the Holborn Guardians that it cannot “too strongly urge upon the guardians the importance of the children being so brought up as to preserve them, as far as possible, free from the habits and associations contracted in a workhouse; and of their receiving such instruction as will fit them to earn their own livelihood. These objects will be best secured by the removal of the children to a separate school.” The Central Authority made useful suggestions, and it also encouraged improvements by laudatory description of the best schools in the Official Circular and the Annual Reports. When it was objected by some boards of guardians that to teach writing and arithmetic to the pauper children was to give them advantages superior to those of the children of the independent labourer, the Central Authority replied that the provision of a good education for the children was not likely to encourage voluntary pauperism in the parents, and therefore there was no need to apply the principle of less eligibility in this case.

On the other hand, it has to be recorded that there were apparently opposing influences at work, as the Norwich Board of Guardians found to its cost in 1854. That board had in 1846, apparently of its own accord, begun a most interesting experiment. As the workhouse was old and overcrowded, and obviously contaminating to the hundreds of children it contained, separate “Boys’ and Girls’ Homes” were established, away from the workhouse and under separate management. At these early types of Poor Law schools the children received both scholastic and industrial training. Their special feature was, however, that the boys of sufficient age were placed out in situations in the town, continuing to use the institution as their home, and contributing the wages that they earned towards the cost of their maintenance. The Norwich Guardians had found, as others have done since, that the old style of indoor apprenticeship was nearly extinct. They had resorted to what they called “outdoor apprenticeship.” “In nineteen cases out of twenty the apprentices bound out … have been outdoor apprentices and have resided with their parents, and received certain weekly allowances. Masters will not consent to take into their houses pauper apprentices.” The Central Authority had objected to this, and had insisted on enforcing the usual apprenticeship order. Apparently it was not found possible to place boys out on this obsolete system, and the plan was adopted of getting the boys situations at wages, low at first, and not for some years amounting to enough fully to maintain them. This experiment had been undertaken with the full knowledge of the Poor Law inspectors, who constantly visited the homes, and who expressed themselves in high praise of their success, and it had even been specially described in print, with great commendation, by the inspector of pauper schools. Indeed, the eighty-seven boys who had already passed out of the homes (presumably as soon as their wages were big enough to keep them) were, with fewer than a dozen exceptions, well launched in the world and doing well. In 1854, however, after eight years, the Central Authority intimated that the whole expenditure on the homes was illegal, as being unauthorised, and it was in fact disallowed. It added that, whilst it was prepared to sanction the continuance of the homes as mere schools, it could not permit them to be used as homes for the elder boys who went out to work. The grounds on which this decision was arrived at are not clear. In one place it is stated that the Poor Law Board “conceive it to be unjust to the children of the independent poor,” presumably unjust to give the pauper boys such advantages. In another place it is stated that the Poor Law Board had only been induced to permit the homes temporarily on the understanding that they were self-supporting-a contention hardly consistent with that of their illegality-whereas the boys who went out to work proved to cost something to the rates, though admittedly less than they would have cost in the workhouse. In a third place it is pointed out that the projected new workhouse will amply accommodate all the children, so that the homes will be unnecessary even as schools-an argument which seems inconsistent with the general policy of the Poor Law Board, unless we are to infer that it wanted only district schools by combinations of unions. We may note, as a final hint of the uncertainty that prevailed, that, after three years’ correspondence, the Poor Law inspector advised the guardians to ask the Central Authority to sanction temporarily the continuance of the homes, as “it is quite possible … that within the next two years the Legislature may resolve on communicating greater vitality to the provisions for the establishment of district schools.” He had told the clerk to the guardians verbally that it was probable that Parliament would make it compulsory to provide for pauper children in establishments apart from workhouses, but that he saw “with regret how strongly different views are pressed” in regard to these homes; and that the guardians would meanwhile do well to delay proceeding with any but the adults’ wards of the new workhouse.

No such legislation as was thus foreshadowed took place, but the policy of removing the children from the workhouses was meanwhile incidentally promoted by an Act of 1849, which enabled use to be made of any establishment in which paupers were maintained by contract “for the education of any poor children therein.”Similarly the various Industrial Schools Acts opened up another class of schools to pauper children. Finally, the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1869 enabled training ships to be established by school districts and the Metropolitan Asylums Board for the education of pauper boys for the sea service. Already by 1856 it was reported with satisfaction that 78 per cent of the children under boards of guardians in the Metropolis were in separate schools-statistics, however, which continued to ignore the much larger number of children on outdoor relief, of whose existence the Central Authority only gradually became aware.

During the next twenty years we see this policy of separate boarding schools for such of the Poor Law children as were on indoor relief being constantly pressed on boards of guardians. The erection of these costly barrack schools, which were each regulated by a separate Special Order, differing slightly from school to school, the steady improvement in their accommodation and diet, and the continuous rise in the educational standard attained, which is the great feature of the ensuing period (though in accordance with the recommendations of the 1834 Report), marks a definite abandonment, as regards the children, of the principle that the condition of the pauper should always be less eligible than that of the lowest class of independent labourer. But although in the course of the period 1847-71, in the Metropolis and various large towns, the greater number of the boys and girls between five and fourteen were removed from the workhouses to these “barrack schools” and similar institutions, such schools were not made compulsory; the retention of children in the workhouse was not forbidden, and in hundreds of unions they remained unaffected by the new policy of the Central Authority, which apparently felt unable to require the boards of guardians to adopt it. Even when the bulk of the children were placed in separate schools, there were always some in the workhouse itself; and it is remarkable that the Central Authority made no attempt to modify for these the provisions of the General Consolidated Order of 1847, the effect of which upon the workhouse administration of the period we have already described.

Meanwhile the “workhouse schools” continued to improve very slowly in educational efficiency. The policy of the Central Authority was apparently to develop industrial training-agricultural work, the simpler handicrafts, and domestic service-on the model of the “Quatt School” in Shropshire. Whether or not this industrial work militated against more intellectual accomplishments is a moot point, but we hear of “the reports of ‘the stagnant dulness of workhouse education’ which annually proceed from Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools.”

Whether or not from a certain divergence of aim between the departments, the connection was in 1863 severed, and the Poor Law Board thenceforward had its own inspectors of Poor Law Schools, whose criticisms and complaints, all in favour of the large district schools as compared with the single union school, appear from 1867 onward in the Annual Reports.

At the very end of the period we may note the beginning of a reaction against the “barrack schools.” It was pointed out by those acquainted with the Scottish system of boarding-out, as well as by persons experienced in English Poor Law administration, that these expensive boarding schools were not answering so well as their admirers claimed, especially as regards the girls. During 1866-9 the alternative of “boarding-out” children in private families at 4s. a week (now 5s.) was warmly discussed, and experimentally adopted in a few places. In 1869 the Central Authority so far yielded to the criticisms made upon these institutions as to permit, under elaborate restrictions and safeguards, the “boarding-out,” in families beyond the limits of the union, of the comparatively small class of children who were actually or practically orphans. In these cases all idea of making the condition of the pauper child less eligible than that of the lowest independent labourer was definitely abandoned. The whole concern of the Central Authority was to see that the provision for the boarded-out child was good and complete. Far from being assimilated to the children of the lowest independent labourers, the boarded-out children were only to be entrusted to specially selected families superior to the lowest, who undertook to bring them up as their own, to provide proper food, clothing and washing, to train them in good habits as well as in suitable domestic and industrial work, and to make them regularly attend school and place of worship. For all this the foster parents were to receive with each child a sum three or four times as great as was, with the sanction of the Central Authority, commonly allowed for the maintenance of each of the couple of hundred thousand children at that date on outdoor relief; and which (as Professor Fawcett vainly objected) was far in excess of what the ordinary labourer could afford to expend on his own children. “A plan,” observed Mr. Fowle, “which cannot be defended on any sound principles of Poor Law.” “It is indeed impossible,” says Mr. Mackay in this connection, “to deny that apparently every provision for pauper children may be regarded as a contravention of this rule…. Professor Fawcett’s … argument has been tacitly neglected.”

Children and the Local Government Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: (i.) On Outdoor Relief

There seems to have been, so far as regards children, no explicit change in policy in 1871. To take first the 336,870 children under sixteen who were on outdoor relief on 1st January 1871-almost exactly one-third of the aggregate pauperism-we see continued the same ignoring of their general condition. We do not find that the inspectors ever investigated what was happening to these children or that the Central Authority ever made any official inquiry, still less issued any order, on the subject. The general policy of restricting outdoor relief, which we have sufficiently described, had incidentally the effect, in the course of twenty years, of reducing the number of children on outdoor relief by nearly one-half.

On one point, indeed, that of education, as we have seen, Parliament had explicitly over-ridden the implied contention that the Poor Law Authorities had no responsibility for the welfare of the children on outdoor relief. The policy of Denison’s Act of 1855, which had been comparatively little acted upon, was extended in 1873 so as to make it compulsory on boards of guardians to see that such children between five and thirteen were regularly at school. The guardians were even required to pay the school fees for children-even illegitimate children-who were not paupers, if they needed this, and the parents did not thereby become paupers.We see the Central Authority communicating these decisions of the Legislature without comment, and the boards of guardians carrying them out as they chose;sometimes even taking it upon themselves to petition the Education Department to relax the requirement of schooling after twelve, as being hard on the parent, useless to the child, and leading to “much necessary work being left undone,” especially “the eradication of pernicious weeds.”

We may see further imposition of responsibility on the boards of guardians for the well-being of the children of the poor, in the series of Acts for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Already in 1868 boards of guardians had been expressly directed by statute to institute proceedings against parents who neglected their children.In 1888 the Central Authority reminded the guardians of the power they had thus had for twenty years, without often making use of it. In 1889 Parliament enacted that any person having the custody of a child under sixteen who “wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes such child, or causes or procures such child to be ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to its health, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour,” and that the guardians might, “out of the funds under their control, pay the reasonable costs and expenses of any proceedings” which they direct to be taken. They were not definitely required to take such proceedings, but Parliament laid the duty upon them to do so. The Act of 1894 made the provisions more explicit, and defined injury to health so as to include “injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement.”

These statutes were applicable, among others, to the 170,000 children on outdoor relief, many of whom were plainly underfed, housed in insanitary conditions, half-clothed, and generally treated in a manner “likely to cause injury” to their health; but we do not find that the boards of guardians realised the great increase of power and responsibility thus entrusted to them. The Central Authority, which observed mildly that Parliament evidently meant the guardians to institute proceedings, did not point out to them the applicability of the new statutes to the children on outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians, so far as we can ascertain, seldom or never acted on them. In 1904, accordingly, the power to pay the expenses of prosecution was transferred to county and borough authorities, so that the guardians ceased to be responsible for taking proceedings; but the workhouse remains a “place of safety” to which a constable or other person authorised by a Justice may take a child, the guardians are required to provide for the reception of any child so brought to the workhouse, and the master is bound to admit such child if there is sufficient accommodation.

After 1890 we find the responsibility of the Poor Law authorities for all the outdoor paupers beginning to be recognised by the inspectorate. “The absolute responsibility of the guardians for the material well-being of every one who is in receipt of outdoor relief,” said Mr. Davy in 1893, had been officially recognised by the District Nurses Order, to which we shall recur. “If any relief at all is given to an applicant,” Mr. Davy laid it down, “it is the plain duty of the guardians to take precautions to insure that … the pauper is sufficiently fed, clothed, and lodged.” This was notoriously not the case in many unions, the children especially being in an evil plight. “In many unions,” said Mr. Baldwyn Fleming, in 1891, “the relieving officer and the inspector of nuisances could show guardians cases … where large families are living in cottages too small for them, and the accommodation is in almost every respect unsatisfactory, where the children have little but rags to cover them by day or night, where school attendance is avoided to the utmost, where the feeding only just escapes starvation, where the physical and moral education of the children are equally impracticable, where infant life is one constant struggle with misery and privation.” The demoralising association of the outdoor pauper children with the pay-station was specially denounced by another inspector. “What,” he said, “is the sense, I would ask-I do ask in board rooms-of all this trouble and outlay to put the children into cottage homes or scattered homes, to keep them, in fact, altogether away from the workhouse, if while doing all this the very same authority permit the precisely similar children of the outdoor poor to haunt the pay-stations, to hang about workhouse gates, or to sit mixed up in waiting-rooms with adult paupers…. The children, early in life, often at times when they ought to be at school, have their eyes opened to the facility with which by exaggerating your impecunious condition, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week can be got without the labour of earning it…. The master of one of the board schools had written … to complain that three children systematically were kept from school on a particular day of the week for the purpose of drawing relief due to their parents.”

We cannot find, however, any order, minute, or circular explicitly taking official cognisance of the condition of these children (except in respect of the statutory requirement of school attendance); nor do the boards of guardians seem to have taken any trouble to inquire into their condition. In 1901 the Central Authority had reported to it, at its special request (in connection with the adequacy of the amount granted, especially for the aged), the amounts usually given in outdoor relief. In the majority of unions it must then have appeared that the amount allowed for the support of each child on outdoor relief was either the 1s. and one loaf per week, which had had the sanction of Mr. Corbett in 1869, or frequently 1s. 6d. per week. The Bradford Board of Guardians, however, if no other, reported that it allowed to deserving widows with dependent children 4s. for the first child, 3s. for the second, and 2s. for each additional child (besides 5s. for the mother herself). We do not find that any official view has been expressed as to this diversity.

At the very end of the period we find Parliament suddenly insisting on the responsibility of the boards of guardians for the condition, not only of the children on outdoor relief, but of all children in so far as sufficiency of food is concerned. By the Act of 1906 special provision is made for children at school who are in need of food. This Act, embodied in a General Order, was communicated to boards of guardians in a circular which explains the exact degree of responsibility which, in the opinion of the Central Authority, Parliament has thereby imposed on them. A parent is bound to supply his children with necessary food, and if he is unable to do so should apply to the guardians for help. When a father, being able to supply food, neglects to do so, or being unable neglects to apply to the guardians, so that the child is underfed, a “special application” on behalf of the child may be made to the guardians or relieving officer “by the managers, or by a teacher duly empowered by the managers, of a public elementary school, or by an officer duly empowered by the local education authority.” If the food is urgently needed it is to be supplied at once, as a loan to the father, and he is to be informed as soon as possible that it has been so given. When there is no such urgency, the father is to be informed that food will be supplied before it is given, that he may have the opportunity of providing it himself; and the guardians are to inquire whether the need is due to habitual neglect; if it is so, the relief shall (and in any case it may) be given on loan.

Whenever relief under this order is given on loan, the guardians are obliged to take proceedings for its recovery, unless the Local Government Board specially approves of their not doing so, which approval would only be obtainable in very special circumstances, e.g. if it were obviously impossible to recover the amount. It is held to be particularly important that these proceedings should always be taken, as they are the only means of safeguarding against abuse, for the rule that, as a condition of relief, the able-bodied father must enter the workhouse or be set to work by the guardians is specially abrogated in cases under this order, as being inapplicable to them. The order does not apply to any child who is blind or deaf and dumb, nor in the case of any relative except the father, nor if the child is not resident with the father. Relief is not to be ordered on a “special application” for a longer period than one month. “Where a special application is renewed within a short time, say six months, after the expiration of the period for which the relief has been given, and further relief has to be allowed, or where within this period special application is made and relief is given in respect of some other member of the same family, and the cause of the application is the habitual neglect of the father to provide food, the Board think that the guardians should consider whether the case is one in which proceedings could be taken against the father, either under the Vagrancy Act 1824, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904.”

Finally, the Board “trust that the boards of guardians, particularly those of populous unions in which cases of underfed children more frequently occur, will endeavour to co-operate with the local education authorities in dealing with really necessitous cases, whilst exercising due discrimination so as to avoid the pauperisation and consequent disfranchisement of parents who ought not to be brought under the Poor Law.”

The number of outdoor pauper children is now slightly more than in 1892, there being on 1st January 1906, 179,870 such, 96,804 being widows’ children, 72,721 children with both parents or with fathers only, and 10,345 having no parents.

Turning now to the much smaller number of children in Poor Law institutions, of whom there were on January 1st 1871, 55,832 (together with a very small number “boarded out”), we see a similar continuity of policy in the Central Authority, but in these cases it is continuity in the policy of a constant enlargement of responsibility, and of a steady improvement in the provision.

(ii.) In Poor Law Schools

The main pre-occupation of the Central Authority since 1871, so far as children are concerned, has been the increase, progressive improvement, and novel development of the Poor Law school entirely removed from the workhouse. The recommendations and incitements to boards of guardians to remove from the workhouse the healthy children of school age are incessant down to 1900. Such children are ordinarily accommodated in Poor Law schools, either district schools, where these exist, or much more frequently “separated” or “workhouse schools,” which may be of the old aggregated type, or “cottage homes” or “scattered homes.” The dramatic change from the views of 1850 is the abandonment of the “district school.” The aggregated type, held in such esteem previously to 1871, fell gradually into disfavour, and is now known as the “barrack school.” Already in 1871 Mr. Corbett was criticising these schools as being far too large (as well as too indiscriminate in the kind of children admitted) to be really successful. After repeated outbreaks of malignant ophthalmia, and continued experience of the mental draw-backs, especially of the large girls’ schools, the Central Authority abandoned its policy, and presently came to decline to sanction proposals which would have the effect of “extending the large schools in the Metropolis and … most readily entertain any proposals for applying to other purposes any of these large buildings, subject to other provision of a suitable character being made for the children.” The barrack school system grew up out of the five Metropolitan school districts; these also therefore shared in the condemnation, and in 1899 two had been dissolved.

A “separate school” belonging to a single union or separate parish would naturally be much smaller than a district school, but nothing is said as to the merits or demerits of an aggregated school of moderate size. The method which seems to have won the approval of the Central Authority is that of “cottage homes,” or the “block system,” under which children are grouped in bodies of not more than twenty-five or thirty in separate houses on a common ground of considerable acreage, and with suitable common buildings, such as baths, chapels, etc., under the supervision, not only of “house-mothers,” but also of a superintendent of the whole. Since 1894 the Board have constantly approved the erection of schools on this plan; they always require that the cottage homes should be entirely separated from the workhouse. The outstanding feature of this system is the great expense.

An alternative plan is that of “scattered homes,” i.e. cottages taken here and there throughout the union, not adjacent to each other, wherein the children live under the care of matrons or foster parents, and whence they attend the public elementary schools. In some cases the results of this system have been good, but the Central Authority received reports of certain cases of bad management, which made it cautious in regard to other proposals in that direction. The adoption of the system in Camberwell was sanctioned on the conditions that the guardians could satisfy the Central Authority that they could get proper houses for the scattered homes, and also that they could be quite sure of having an adequate system of inspection.

Notwithstanding the great expense of these highly elaborated boarding-schools for the indoor pauper boys and girls-an expense reaching between ?100 and ?200 capital, and between ?30 and ?50 annual maintenance, for each child-we see the Central Authority constantly pressing for their multiplication. The very idea of “less eligibility” has been forgotten by the inspectors. To quote one of them in 1902: “The number and nature of obstacles (to the removal of children from the workhouse) conjured up in the minds of many of the country guardians is,” he says, “quite surprising. One idea, which proves a great stumbling-block, is that the children will be put in a position above their deserts, and above that of the children living in their own homes with their parents.”

On 1st January 1906, the total number of children in “district or separate schools” was no more than 12,393, whilst in “cottage and other homes” there were 14,590; and 11,368 were in other institutions (mostly certified industrial schools, conducted by philanthropic committees not for profit).

(iii.) The Workhouse Children

Notwithstanding the desire of the Central Authority to remove the children from the workhouses, there remained on 1st January 1906 no fewer than 21,526 in these institutions. The Central Authority has, for instance, never objected to the retention in workhouses of children of tender years, or of children of any age, in the interval before they can be sent to school. In 1889, indeed, it was especially forbidden to send children to separate schools under the age of three. Though no alteration has been made in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, by which the internal economy of the workhouse is professedly governed, the Central Authority laid it down in 1895 that “in every workhouse in which there are several children too young to attend school, a separate nursery-dry, spacious, light, and well ventilated-should be provided, and should be suitably furnished.”

The children are always to be under the supervision of paid officers, a recommendation made in the days of the Poor Law Board, but still up to 1895 frequently urged-showing that at any rate till then it had not been effectively insisted on. Even in that year the Board had to write: “In no case should the care of young children be entrusted to inferior or weak-minded inmates”-a qualification which weakens the force of the prohibition of the use of paupers at all. “Unless young children are placed under responsible supervision they cannot be said to be ‘properly taken care of'”; and again, more generally, “all children in workhouses should be under the charge of officers, either industrial trainers or caretakers, and should not be left to the charge of adult paupers.” The medical officer is responsible for the children’s health, and with a view to the prevention of disease he is expected to inspect them, whether they are ill or not, “frequently and individually.” In this connection may be mentioned a “Memorandum relative to Ophthalmia of New-born Children,” in which the Board requested medical officers to give each nurse or midwife acting under their directions such written instructions as they might deem necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject. In 1882 the Central Authority refused to sanction any women’s committee; but by 1897 the guardians were urged to appoint women’s committees for the supervision of the women and children in the workhouse.

It is interesting to trace the growth of opinion with regard to the provision for the children of means of enjoyment. For half a century after 1834 the Central Authority allowed no toys whatever for all its tens of thousands of indoor children of all ages. An auditor in 1883 disallowed sums spent on toys for sick children, and Mr. Hibbert was questioned in Parliament. He said “there have been similar disallowances previously, and the Local Government Board, while relieving the persons surcharged of their liability, have held that expenditure of this character should be defrayed by private liberality, rather than out of rates compulsorily levied.” The disallowances had therefore hitherto been confirmed, the payments being thus decided to be actually illegal. “The subject,” continued Mr. Hibbert, “had been considered in connection with the recent surcharge, and it is proposed to hold that the expenditure was within the legal powers of the guardians, and the auditor will be communicated with, with a view to a reversal of his decision.” It is not clear which of these conflicting decisions of the Central Authority was in accordance with law.

In 1891 the Board wrote: “The supply of illustrated books and periodicals of children is especially desirable. Admirable publications of this class can now be obtained at a very small cost, and where it appears to be necessary an expenditure by the guardians for this purpose should, in the Board’s opinion, be urged upon them. The question of the provision of bats, balls, skipping-ropes, etc., for the children and toys for the infants, is also one which the Board are desirous should receive the attention of the inspectors on the occasion of their inspections of the workhouses.”

“Special care should be taken that a sufficient part of each day is set apart for recreation only, and that the children should be allowed to take exercise frequently outside the workhouse premises, and that they should be encouraged in healthy games of all sorts.” The guardians were allowed to take girls from the Forest Gate Schools to see the sights of London, provided the places visited were approved by the school inspector, and also to pay a donation to the funds of a Band of Hope, when the Poor Law children were allowed to share in the work of the society.

In recent years, we see the inspectorate urging that even children of tender years ought not to live in the workhouse. This is a new idea which has not yet received more formal endorsement. As children under three may not, by the Central Authority’s own order of 10th February 1899, be sent to a separate Poor Law school, there is as yet no place for them but the workhouse. “Nothing has been said,” observed Mr. Jenner Fust, in 1901, “about the nursery children, at present retained at the workhouse till three years old, or even more, though the case of these requires attention as much as that of the older ones. They are almost always largely under the care of inmates, and the conditions are seldom improved even when these inmates are their own mothers…. I cannot but think that nursery homes with trained nurses as foster-mothers should form part of the equipment of all cottage homes, or, if a separate receiving home be established, the nursery children might conveniently be placed there, the removal from the workhouse not being delayed beyond the period when a child is able to walk.”

With regard to the education of the older workhouse children the Central Authority has changed its policy. It does not actually forbid the guardians to arrange for a school within the workhouse, which was the policy of 1850. But the plan now favoured is to send them out to the public elementary schools, as is also done when they are placed in scattered homes. At first the Central Authority only sanctioned this course with reluctance, only when the number of such children was small, and with special recommendations as to the appointment of officers to supervise the children out of school hours and impart industrial training. In the case of one union, they “urged the guardians to reconsider the question, with a view to the appointment either of a caretaker of the children or a porter, who could give that attention to the boys when in the workhouse which was of such importance to their future welfare.” Later, perhaps, when the principle of paid “caretakers” had become more fully accepted, the Central Authority gave the system much more hearty support, noted its prevalence with satisfaction, and considered it highly desirable that children in Poor Law establishments should thus be given opportunities of mixing with other children.

When there is a choice of elementary schools, each child should be sent to the one conducted according to its own religious creed, and it was also recommended that the children should be sent out to Sunday schools of their own denomination. This denomination is ordinarily that of the child’s parents, but if the religion is not known, he is to be brought up in the Church of England: if the father changes his creed, that of the child changes also.

While in the workhouse the children are to receive instruction in industrial and manual work, but the Board strongly resisted proposals for sending them out to work in factories.

Subject to these conditions, the 21,526 children living in the workhouse remain there to the knowledge and with the sanction of the Central Authority-at least, this is what the guardians contend, and, so far as we can discover, there is no order, circular, or minute to the contrary.

Meanwhile the guardians are pressed to bestow on them an amount of salaried care and expensive attention that surprises the more old-fashioned among them, who have not yet quite abandoned the principle of “less eligibility.” “One matter of some interest,” says Mr. Baldwyn Fleming in 1902, “is the curious reluctance displayed by country guardians to have the children’s teeth cared for.” The argument used is, “The ratepayers do not take their children to the dentist, and why should we do so?” (in the case of the indoor Poor Law children.)

(iv.) The Education of the Indoor Pauper Child

Down to 1897 the Central Authority had contemplated and recognised in its orders and circulars that the pauper children would spend only about half the school time in ordinary school subjects, the other half being devoted to what was euphemistically called “industrial training.” This meant, in practice, the employment of the children in domestic work, gardening, mending clothes or boots, and so on, the persons selected as “industrial trainers” not being required to have any pedagogic qualifications or power to teach, and being paid in fact only at workmen’s rates. In 1897, the rapid abandonment of the half-time system outside the workhouse led to a great advance. By the Order of that year, which governs all Poor Law schools, whether they are in workhouses or district or separate schools, the half-time system is greatly discouraged. Industrial training takes a subordinate place. The Order fixes the number of hours during which the children are to be under school instruction, and provides for a ten minutes’ rest in every attendance of two hours or more, limits the number of hours which may be occupied in manual or industrial work, and provides for one whole holiday or two half-holidays in each week, in addition to allowing six weeks’ holidays in the year if the guardians choose to grant it. One object of the Order was to secure that children should not be unduly pressed with manual or industrial work in addition to the school instruction. The religious teaching required by any Orders in force is to be given in addition to the school hours. In 1877 it had been ordered that any time which might be devoted to drill or industrial training, other than a reasonable time for needlework, in the case of girls, should not be included in the time prescribed for attendance. The present Order, in more general terms, allows school instruction to include “any of the subjects for which grants may be made under the Code of Regulations of the Education Department, for the time being in force, except cookery, laundry work, dairy work, or cottage gardening.” Of the time allowed for needlework, not more than one-third is to be spent in mending; the rest is to be occupied in plain needlework, knitting, and cutting out and making garments. When children attend school for half-time, it is preferred that they shall receive the school instruction in the morning, and the industrial training in the afternoon. There is now no superior limit to the education that may be provided for a pauper child within the proper ages. As early as 1878 payment for the attendance of the workhouse girls at a school of cookery was held to be legal. Guardians are allowed to pay the fees for the instruction of the children at a technical institute when they see fit to do so, quite irrespective of whether or not the children of the poorest independent labourer can get such advantages.

It may be noted that a Special Order of 30th April 1887 (not mentioned in the Annual Reports, or otherwise communicated to boards of guardians) enables the Forest Gate District School to allow a class of the elder girls to go out and buy their food, spending not more than 3s. 6d. a week each, and prepare it for their own consumption, so as to get some practical experience of ordinary life. By another Order of 5th August 1889, the children in this one school are allowed to buy their own outfits (up to ?3 10s.). We do not find that the Central Authority has yet made these privileges general, nor extended them to any other indoor pauper children.

On 1st April 1904, the responsibility for the inspection of the education of the Poor Law Schools, and of pauper children in certified schools, was transferred to the Board of Education thus reverting to the policy prior to 1863.

(v.) Boarding-out

The boarding-out system was in 1871 still on its trial, having been authorised for scarcely a year, and the Central Authority was very guarded in expressing any opinion on its merits; it gradually won favour, but while mildly encouraging it the Central Authority would do nothing to force its growth. In 1900 it was referred to as one method of removing children from the workhouse, but it was never thought likely to become a practical means for dealing with the mass of pauper children, as a substitute either for ordinary outdoor relief or for Poor Law schools.

Boarding-out beyond the union had been first regulated by the Order of 25th November 1870. In 1877 it was found that boarding-out within the union was being largely practised, it being, as the Central Authority had itself held, legally only ordinary out-relief, requiring no sanction. This also was then regulated by a General Order.Both these Orders were re-issued with slight modifications in 1889, the former to every union in the country, the latter to all but the most populous town unions. Again, in 1905, the Order for boarding-out beyond the union was slightly altered and re-issued.

The operation of these Orders was limited to certain classes of children; in 1877 to those deserted by their parents, or whose parents were dead, undergoing penal servitude, suffering from mental disease, or out of England; by the Orders of 1889, children whose parents were permanently bedridden or disabled were added to the list; and in 1905 children adopted by the guardians were formally included, as such children could previously only be boarded out if they were also orphan or deserted according to the definition. The Central Authority refused its sanction to a proposal to board out the illegitimate children of able-bodied women in the workhouse. It was twice decided that when out-relief is given to a child living with a person not legally liable for its support, such child must be considered as boarded out. There is no age limit for boarding-out within the union, but a child may not be first boarded out beyond the union under two, nor when over ten, unless in the same home with a brother or sister under that age.

In view of this gradual adoption of the boarding-out system as a permanent form of the treatment of children under the Poor Law, it is instructive to compare the requirements which the Central Authority makes to ensure the proper maintenance of the boarded-out children with the policy just described in respect of the children on ordinary outdoor relief.

The various Orders all lay practically the same duties on the foster-parent. He is to sign an undertaking that: “He will bring up the child as one of his own children, and provide the child with proper food, lodging and washing, and endeavour to train the child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry, as well as in suitable domestic and outdoor work, so far as may be consistent with the law; that he will take care that the child shall attend duly at church or chapel according to the religious creed to which the child belongs, and shall attend school according to the provisions of the law for the time being; that he will provide for the proper repair and renewal of the child’s clothing, and that in case of the child’s illness he will forthwith report such illness to the guardians and to the boarding-out committee; and that he will at all times permit the child to be visited and the house to be inspected by any member of the boarding-out committee, and by any person specially appointed for that purpose by the guardians or by the Local Government Board. The undertaking shall also contain an engagement on the part of the foster-parent that he will, upon the demand of a person duly authorised in writing by the boarding-out committee, or by the guardians, give up possession of the child.” The 1905 undertaking is slightly different in terms, the chief variation being an omission of the reference t

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also

Children and the Local Government Board

In this issue about children, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: (i.) On Outdoor Relief

There seems to have been, so far as regards children, no explicit change in policy in 1871. To take first the 336,870 children under sixteen who were on outdoor relief on 1st January 1871-almost exactly one-third of the aggregate pauperism-we see continued the same ignoring of their general condition. We do not find that the inspectors ever investigated what was happening to these children or that the Central Authority ever made any official inquiry, still less issued any order, on the subject. The general policy of restricting outdoor relief, which we have sufficiently described, had incidentally the effect, in the course of twenty years, of reducing the number of children on outdoor relief by nearly one-half.

On one point, indeed, that of education, as we have seen, Parliament had explicitly over-ridden the implied contention that the Poor Law Authorities had no responsibility for the welfare of the children on outdoor relief. The policy of Denison’s Act of 1855, which had been comparatively little acted upon, was extended in 1873 so as to make it compulsory on boards of guardians to see that such children between five and thirteen were regularly at school. The guardians were even required to pay the school fees for children-even illegitimate children-who were not paupers, if they needed this, and the parents did not thereby become paupers.We see the Central Authority communicating these decisions of the Legislature without comment, and the boards of guardians carrying them out as they chose;sometimes even taking it upon themselves to petition the Education Department to relax the requirement of schooling after twelve, as being hard on the parent, useless to the child, and leading to “much necessary work being left undone,” especially “the eradication of pernicious weeds.”

We may see further imposition of responsibility on the boards of guardians for the well-being of the children of the poor, in the series of Acts for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Already in 1868 boards of guardians had been expressly directed by statute to institute proceedings against parents who neglected their children.In 1888 the Central Authority reminded the guardians of the power they had thus had for twenty years, without often making use of it. In 1889 Parliament enacted that any person having the custody of a child under sixteen who “wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes such child, or causes or procures such child to be ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to its health, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour,” and that the guardians might, “out of the funds under their control, pay the reasonable costs and expenses of any proceedings” which they direct to be taken. They were not definitely required to take such proceedings, but Parliament laid the duty upon them to do so. The Act of 1894 made the provisions more explicit, and defined injury to health so as to include “injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement.”

These statutes were applicable, among others, to the 170,000 children on outdoor relief, many of whom were plainly underfed, housed in insanitary conditions, half-clothed, and generally treated in a manner “likely to cause injury” to their health; but we do not find that the boards of guardians realised the great increase of power and responsibility thus entrusted to them. The Central Authority, which observed mildly that Parliament evidently meant the guardians to institute proceedings, did not point out to them the applicability of the new statutes to the children on outdoor relief; and the boards of guardians, so far as we can ascertain, seldom or never acted on them. In 1904, accordingly, the power to pay the expenses of prosecution was transferred to county and borough authorities, so that the guardians ceased to be responsible for taking proceedings; but the workhouse remains a “place of safety” to which a constable or other person authorised by a Justice may take a child, the guardians are required to provide for the reception of any child so brought to the workhouse, and the master is bound to admit such child if there is sufficient accommodation.

After 1890 we find the responsibility of the Poor Law authorities for all the outdoor paupers beginning to be recognised by the inspectorate. “The absolute responsibility of the guardians for the material well-being of every one who is in receipt of outdoor relief,” said Mr. Davy in 1893, had been officially recognised by the District Nurses Order, to which we shall recur. “If any relief at all is given to an applicant,” Mr. Davy laid it down, “it is the plain duty of the guardians to take precautions to insure that … the pauper is sufficiently fed, clothed, and lodged.” This was notoriously not the case in many unions, the children especially being in an evil plight. “In many unions,” said Mr. Baldwyn Fleming, in 1891, “the relieving officer and the inspector of nuisances could show guardians cases … where large families are living in cottages too small for them, and the accommodation is in almost every respect unsatisfactory, where the children have little but rags to cover them by day or night, where school attendance is avoided to the utmost, where the feeding only just escapes starvation, where the physical and moral education of the children are equally impracticable, where infant life is one constant struggle with misery and privation.” The demoralising association of the outdoor pauper children with the pay-station was specially denounced by another inspector. “What,” he said, “is the sense, I would ask-I do ask in board rooms-of all this trouble and outlay to put the children into cottage homes or scattered homes, to keep them, in fact, altogether away from the workhouse, if while doing all this the very same authority permit the precisely similar children of the outdoor poor to haunt the pay-stations, to hang about workhouse gates, or to sit mixed up in waiting-rooms with adult paupers…. The children, early in life, often at times when they ought to be at school, have their eyes opened to the facility with which by exaggerating your impecunious condition, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week can be got without the labour of earning it…. The master of one of the board schools had written … to complain that three children systematically were kept from school on a particular day of the week for the purpose of drawing relief due to their parents.”

We cannot find, however, any order, minute, or circular explicitly taking official cognisance of the condition of these children (except in respect of the statutory requirement of school attendance); nor do the boards of guardians seem to have taken any trouble to inquire into their condition. In 1901 the Central Authority had reported to it, at its special request (in connection with the adequacy of the amount granted, especially for the aged), the amounts usually given in outdoor relief. In the majority of unions it must then have appeared that the amount allowed for the support of each child on outdoor relief was either the 1s. and one loaf per week, which had had the sanction of Mr. Corbett in 1869, or frequently 1s. 6d. per week. The Bradford Board of Guardians, however, if no other, reported that it allowed to deserving widows with dependent children 4s. for the first child, 3s. for the second, and 2s. for each additional child (besides 5s. for the mother herself). We do not find that any official view has been expressed as to this diversity.

At the very end of the period we find Parliament suddenly insisting on the responsibility of the boards of guardians for the condition, not only of the children on outdoor relief, but of all children in so far as sufficiency of food is concerned. By the Act of 1906 special provision is made for children at school who are in need of food. This Act, embodied in a General Order, was communicated to boards of guardians in a circular which explains the exact degree of responsibility which, in the opinion of the Central Authority, Parliament has thereby imposed on them. A parent is bound to supply his children with necessary food, and if he is unable to do so should apply to the guardians for help. When a father, being able to supply food, neglects to do so, or being unable neglects to apply to the guardians, so that the child is underfed, a “special application” on behalf of the child may be made to the guardians or relieving officer “by the managers, or by a teacher duly empowered by the managers, of a public elementary school, or by an officer duly empowered by the local education authority.” If the food is urgently needed it is to be supplied at once, as a loan to the father, and he is to be informed as soon as possible that it has been so given. When there is no such urgency, the father is to be informed that food will be supplied before it is given, that he may have the opportunity of providing it himself; and the guardians are to inquire whether the need is due to habitual neglect; if it is so, the relief shall (and in any case it may) be given on loan.

Whenever relief under this order is given on loan, the guardians are obliged to take proceedings for its recovery, unless the Local Government Board specially approves of their not doing so, which approval would only be obtainable in very special circumstances, e.g. if it were obviously impossible to recover the amount. It is held to be particularly important that these proceedings should always be taken, as they are the only means of safeguarding against abuse, for the rule that, as a condition of relief, the able-bodied father must enter the workhouse or be set to work by the guardians is specially abrogated in cases under this order, as being inapplicable to them. The order does not apply to any child who is blind or deaf and dumb, nor in the case of any relative except the father, nor if the child is not resident with the father. Relief is not to be ordered on a “special application” for a longer period than one month. “Where a special application is renewed within a short time, say six months, after the expiration of the period for which the relief has been given, and further relief has to be allowed, or where within this period special application is made and relief is given in respect of some other member of the same family, and the cause of the application is the habitual neglect of the father to provide food, the Board think that the guardians should consider whether the case is one in which proceedings could be taken against the father, either under the Vagrancy Act 1824, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904.”

Finally, the Board “trust that the boards of guardians, particularly those of populous unions in which cases of underfed children more frequently occur, will endeavour to co-operate with the local education authorities in dealing with really necessitous cases, whilst exercising due discrimination so as to avoid the pauperisation and consequent disfranchisement of parents who ought not to be brought under the Poor Law.”

The number of outdoor pauper children is now slightly more than in 1892, there being on 1st January 1906, 179,870 such, 96,804 being widows’ children, 72,721 children with both parents or with fathers only, and 10,345 having no parents.

Turning now to the much smaller number of children in Poor Law institutions, of whom there were on January 1st 1871, 55,832 (together with a very small number “boarded out”), we see a similar continuity of policy in the Central Authority, but in these cases it is continuity in the policy of a constant enlargement of responsibility, and of a steady improvement in the provision.

(ii.) In Poor Law Schools

The main pre-occupation of the Central Authority since 1871, so far as children are concerned, has been the increase, progressive improvement, and novel development of the Poor Law school entirely removed from the workhouse. The recommendations and incitements to boards of guardians to remove from the workhouse the healthy children of school age are incessant down to 1900. Such children are ordinarily accommodated in Poor Law schools, either district schools, where these exist, or much more frequently “separated” or “workhouse schools,” which may be of the old aggregated type, or “cottage homes” or “scattered homes.” The dramatic change from the views of 1850 is the abandonment of the “district school.” The aggregated type, held in such esteem previously to 1871, fell gradually into disfavour, and is now known as the “barrack school.” Already in 1871 Mr. Corbett was criticising these schools as being far too large (as well as too indiscriminate in the kind of children admitted) to be really successful. After repeated outbreaks of malignant ophthalmia, and continued experience of the mental draw-backs, especially of the large girls’ schools, the Central Authority abandoned its policy, and presently came to decline to sanction proposals which would have the effect of “extending the large schools in the Metropolis and … most readily entertain any proposals for applying to other purposes any of these large buildings, subject to other provision of a suitable character being made for the children.” The barrack school system grew up out of the five Metropolitan school districts; these also therefore shared in the condemnation, and in 1899 two had been dissolved.

A “separate school” belonging to a single union or separate parish would naturally be much smaller than a district school, but nothing is said as to the merits or demerits of an aggregated school of moderate size. The method which seems to have won the approval of the Central Authority is that of “cottage homes,” or the “block system,” under which children are grouped in bodies of not more than twenty-five or thirty in separate houses on a common ground of considerable acreage, and with suitable common buildings, such as baths, chapels, etc., under the supervision, not only of “house-mothers,” but also of a superintendent of the whole. Since 1894 the Board have constantly approved the erection of schools on this plan; they always require that the cottage homes should be entirely separated from the workhouse. The outstanding feature of this system is the great expense.

An alternative plan is that of “scattered homes,” i.e. cottages taken here and there throughout the union, not adjacent to each other, wherein the children live under the care of matrons or foster parents, and whence they attend the public elementary schools. In some cases the results of this system have been good, but the Central Authority received reports of certain cases of bad management, which made it cautious in regard to other proposals in that direction. The adoption of the system in Camberwell was sanctioned on the conditions that the guardians could satisfy the Central Authority that they could get proper houses for the scattered homes, and also that they could be quite sure of having an adequate system of inspection.

Notwithstanding the great expense of these highly elaborated boarding-schools for the indoor pauper boys and girls-an expense reaching between ?100 and ?200 capital, and between ?30 and ?50 annual maintenance, for each child-we see the Central Authority constantly pressing for their multiplication. The very idea of “less eligibility” has been forgotten by the inspectors. To quote one of them in 1902: “The number and nature of obstacles (to the removal of children from the workhouse) conjured up in the minds of many of the country guardians is,” he says, “quite surprising. One idea, which proves a great stumbling-block, is that the children will be put in a position above their deserts, and above that of the children living in their own homes with their parents.”

On 1st January 1906, the total number of children in “district or separate schools” was no more than 12,393, whilst in “cottage and other homes” there were 14,590; and 11,368 were in other institutions (mostly certified industrial schools, conducted by philanthropic committees not for profit).

(iii.) The Workhouse Children

Notwithstanding the desire of the Central Authority to remove the children from the workhouses, there remained on 1st January 1906 no fewer than 21,526 in these institutions. The Central Authority has, for instance, never objected to the retention in workhouses of children of tender years, or of children of any age, in the interval before they can be sent to school. In 1889, indeed, it was especially forbidden to send children to separate schools under the age of three. Though no alteration has been made in the General Consolidated Order of 1847, by which the internal economy of the workhouse is professedly governed, the Central Authority laid it down in 1895 that “in every workhouse in which there are several children too young to attend school, a separate nursery-dry, spacious, light, and well ventilated-should be provided, and should be suitably furnished.”

The children are always to be under the supervision of paid officers, a recommendation made in the days of the Poor Law Board, but still up to 1895 frequently urged-showing that at any rate till then it had not been effectively insisted on. Even in that year the Board had to write: “In no case should the care of young children be entrusted to inferior or weak-minded inmates”-a qualification which weakens the force of the prohibition of the use of paupers at all. “Unless young children are placed under responsible supervision they cannot be said to be ‘properly taken care of'”; and again, more generally, “all children in workhouses should be under the charge of officers, either industrial trainers or caretakers, and should not be left to the charge of adult paupers.” The medical officer is responsible for the children’s health, and with a view to the prevention of disease he is expected to inspect them, whether they are ill or not, “frequently and individually.” In this connection may be mentioned a “Memorandum relative to Ophthalmia of New-born Children,” in which the Board requested medical officers to give each nurse or midwife acting under their directions such written instructions as they might deem necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject. In 1882 the Central Authority refused to sanction any women’s committee; but by 1897 the guardians were urged to appoint women’s committees for the supervision of the women and children in the workhouse.

It is interesting to trace the growth of opinion with regard to the provision for the children of means of enjoyment. For half a century after 1834 the Central Authority allowed no toys whatever for all its tens of thousands of indoor children of all ages. An auditor in 1883 disallowed sums spent on toys for sick children, and Mr. Hibbert was questioned in Parliament. He said “there have been similar disallowances previously, and the Local Government Board, while relieving the persons surcharged of their liability, have held that expenditure of this character should be defrayed by private liberality, rather than out of rates compulsorily levied.” The disallowances had therefore hitherto been confirmed, the payments being thus decided to be actually illegal. “The subject,” continued Mr. Hibbert, “had been considered in connection with the recent surcharge, and it is proposed to hold that the expenditure was within the legal powers of the guardians, and the auditor will be communicated with, with a view to a reversal of his decision.” It is not clear which of these conflicting decisions of the Central Authority was in accordance with law.

In 1891 the Board wrote: “The supply of illustrated books and periodicals of children is especially desirable. Admirable publications of this class can now be obtained at a very small cost, and where it appears to be necessary an expenditure by the guardians for this purpose should, in the Board’s opinion, be urged upon them. The question of the provision of bats, balls, skipping-ropes, etc., for the children and toys for the infants, is also one which the Board are desirous should receive the attention of the inspectors on the occasion of their inspections of the workhouses.”

“Special care should be taken that a sufficient part of each day is set apart for recreation only, and that the children should be allowed to take exercise frequently outside the workhouse premises, and that they should be encouraged in healthy games of all sorts.” The guardians were allowed to take girls from the Forest Gate Schools to see the sights of London, provided the places visited were approved by the school inspector, and also to pay a donation to the funds of a Band of Hope, when the Poor Law children were allowed to share in the work of the society.

In recent years, we see the inspectorate urging that even children of tender years ought not to live in the workhouse. This is a new idea which has not yet received more formal endorsement. As children under three may not, by the Central Authority’s own order of 10th February 1899, be sent to a separate Poor Law school, there is as yet no place for them but the workhouse. “Nothing has been said,” observed Mr. Jenner Fust, in 1901, “about the nursery children, at present retained at the workhouse till three years old, or even more, though the case of these requires attention as much as that of the older ones. They are almost always largely under the care of inmates, and the conditions are seldom improved even when these inmates are their own mothers…. I cannot but think that nursery homes with trained nurses as foster-mothers should form part of the equipment of all cottage homes, or, if a separate receiving home be established, the nursery children might conveniently be placed there, the removal from the workhouse not being delayed beyond the period when a child is able to walk.”

With regard to the education of the older workhouse children the Central Authority has changed its policy. It does not actually forbid the guardians to arrange for a school within the workhouse, which was the policy of 1850. But the plan now favoured is to send them out to the public elementary schools, as is also done when they are placed in scattered homes. At first the Central Authority only sanctioned this course with reluctance, only when the number of such children was small, and with special recommendations as to the appointment of officers to supervise the children out of school hours and impart industrial training. In the case of one union, they “urged the guardians to reconsider the question, with a view to the appointment either of a caretaker of the children or a porter, who could give that attention to the boys when in the workhouse which was of such importance to their future welfare.” Later, perhaps, when the principle of paid “caretakers” had become more fully accepted, the Central Authority gave the system much more hearty support, noted its prevalence with satisfaction, and considered it highly desirable that children in Poor Law establishments should thus be given opportunities of mixing with other children.

When there is a choice of elementary schools, each child should be sent to the one conducted according to its own religious creed, and it was also recommended that the children should be sent out to Sunday schools of their own denomination. This denomination is ordinarily that of the child’s parents, but if the religion is not known, he is to be brought up in the Church of England: if the father changes his creed, that of the child changes also.

While in the workhouse the children are to receive instruction in industrial and manual work, but the Board strongly resisted proposals for sending them out to work in factories.

Subject to these conditions, the 21,526 children living in the workhouse remain there to the knowledge and with the sanction of the Central Authority-at least, this is what the guardians contend, and, so far as we can discover, there is no order, circular, or minute to the contrary.

Meanwhile the guardians are pressed to bestow on them an amount of salaried care and expensive attention that surprises the more old-fashioned among them, who have not yet quite abandoned the principle of “less eligibility.” “One matter of some interest,” says Mr. Baldwyn Fleming in 1902, “is the curious reluctance displayed by country guardians to have the children’s teeth cared for.” The argument used is, “The ratepayers do not take their children to the dentist, and why should we do so?” (in the case of the indoor Poor Law children.)

(iv.) The Education of the Indoor Pauper Child

Down to 1897 the Central Authority had contemplated and recognised in its orders and circulars that the pauper children would spend only about half the school time in ordinary school subjects, the other half being devoted to what was euphemistically called “industrial training.” This meant, in practice, the employment of the children in domestic work, gardening, mending clothes or boots, and so on, the persons selected as “industrial trainers” not being required to have any pedagogic qualifications or power to teach, and being paid in fact only at workmen’s rates. In 1897, the rapid abandonment of the half-time system outside the workhouse led to a great advance. By the Order of that year, which governs all Poor Law schools, whether they are in workhouses or district or separate schools, the half-time system is greatly discouraged. Industrial training takes a subordinate place. The Order fixes the number of hours during which the children are to be under school instruction, and provides for a ten minutes’ rest in every attendance of two hours or more, limits the number of hours which may be occupied in manual or industrial work, and provides for one whole holiday or two half-holidays in each week, in addition to allowing six weeks’ holidays in the year if the guardians choose to grant it. One object of the Order was to secure that children should not be unduly pressed with manual or industrial work in addition to the school instruction. The religious teaching required by any Orders in force is to be given in addition to the school hours. In 1877 it had been ordered that any time which might be devoted to drill or industrial training, other than a reasonable time for needlework, in the case of girls, should not be included in the time prescribed for attendance. The present Order, in more general terms, allows school instruction to include “any of the subjects for which grants may be made under the Code of Regulations of the Education Department, for the time being in force, except cookery, laundry work, dairy work, or cottage gardening.” Of the time allowed for needlework, not more than one-third is to be spent in mending; the rest is to be occupied in plain needlework, knitting, and cutting out and making garments. When children attend school for half-time, it is preferred that they shall receive the school instruction in the morning, and the industrial training in the afternoon. There is now no superior limit to the education that may be provided for a pauper child within the proper ages. As early as 1878 payment for the attendance of the workhouse girls at a school of cookery was held to be legal. Guardians are allowed to pay the fees for the instruction of the children at a technical institute when they see fit to do so, quite irrespective of whether or not the children of the poorest independent labourer can get such advantages.

It may be noted that a Special Order of 30th April 1887 (not mentioned in the Annual Reports, or otherwise communicated to boards of guardians) enables the Forest Gate District School to allow a class of the elder girls to go out and buy their food, spending not more than 3s. 6d. a week each, and prepare it for their own consumption, so as to get some practical experience of ordinary life. By another Order of 5th August 1889, the children in this one school are allowed to buy their own outfits (up to ?3 10s.). We do not find that the Central Authority has yet made these privileges general, nor extended them to any other indoor pauper children.

On 1st April 1904, the responsibility for the inspection of the education of the Poor Law Schools, and of pauper children in certified schools, was transferred to the Board of Education thus reverting to the policy prior to 1863.

(v.) Boarding-out

The boarding-out system was in 1871 still on its trial, having been authorised for scarcely a year, and the Central Authority was very guarded in expressing any opinion on its merits; it gradually won favour, but while mildly encouraging it the Central Authority would do nothing to force its growth. In 1900 it was referred to as one method of removing children from the workhouse, but it was never thought likely to become a practical means for dealing with the mass of pauper children, as a substitute either for ordinary outdoor relief or for Poor Law schools.

Boarding-out beyond the union had been first regulated by the Order of 25th November 1870. In 1877 it was found that boarding-out within the union was being largely practised, it being, as the Central Authority had itself held, legally only ordinary out-relief, requiring no sanction. This also was then regulated by a General Order.Both these Orders were re-issued with slight modifications in 1889, the former to every union in the country, the latter to all but the most populous town unions. Again, in 1905, the Order for boarding-out beyond the union was slightly altered and re-issued.

The operation of these Orders was limited to certain classes of children; in 1877 to those deserted by their parents, or whose parents were dead, undergoing penal servitude, suffering from mental disease, or out of England; by the Orders of 1889, children whose parents were permanently bedridden or disabled were added to the list; and in 1905 children adopted by the guardians were formally included, as such children could previously only be boarded out if they were also orphan or deserted according to the definition. The Central Authority refused its sanction to a proposal to board out the illegitimate children of able-bodied women in the workhouse. It was twice decided that when out-relief is given to a child living with a person not legally liable for its support, such child must be considered as boarded out. There is no age limit for boarding-out within the union, but a child may not be first boarded out beyond the union under two, nor when over ten, unless in the same home with a brother or sister under that age.

In view of this gradual adoption of the boarding-out system as a permanent form of the treatment of children under the Poor Law, it is instructive to compare the requirements which the Central Authority makes to ensure the proper maintenance of the boarded-out children with the policy just described in respect of the children on ordinary outdoor relief.

The various Orders all lay practically the same duties on the foster-parent. He is to sign an undertaking that: “He will bring up the child as one of his own children, and provide the child with proper food, lodging and washing, and endeavour to train the child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry, as well as in suitable domestic and outdoor work, so far as may be consistent with the law; that he will take care that the child shall attend duly at church or chapel according to the religious creed to which the child belongs, and shall attend school according to the provisions of the law for the time being; that he will provide for the proper repair and renewal of the child’s clothing, and that in case of the child’s illness he will forthwith report such illness to the guardians and to the boarding-out committee; and that he will at all times permit the child to be visited and the house to be inspected by any member of the boarding-out committee, and by any person specially appointed for that purpose by the guardians or by the Local Government Board. The undertaking shall also contain an engagement on the part of the foster-parent that he will, upon the demand of a person duly authorised in writing by the boarding-out committee, or by the guardians, give up possession of the child.” The 1905 undertaking is slightly different in terms, the chief variation being an omission of the reference t

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also



Law is our Passion


This entry about Children has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0) licence, which permits unrestricted use and reproduction, provided the author or authors of the Children entry and the Encyclopedia of Law are in each case credited as the source of the Children entry. Please note this CC BY licence applies to some textual content of Children, and that some images and other textual or non-textual elements may be covered by special copyright arrangements. For guidance on citing Children (giving attribution as required by the CC BY licence), please see below our recommendation of "Cite this Entry".

Cite this entry

Legal Citations Generator

(2017, 04). Children lawi.org.uk Retrieved 06, 2021, from https://lawi.org.uk/children/

04 2017. 06 2021 <https://lawi.org.uk/children/>

"Children" lawi.org.uk. lawi.org.uk, 04 2017. Web. 06 2021. <https://lawi.org.uk/children/>

"Children" lawi.org.uk. 04, 2017. Accesed 06 2021. https://lawi.org.uk/children/

Gareth H. Jones, 'Children' (lawi.org.uk 2017) <https://lawi.org.uk/children/> accesed 2021 June 19

Usage Metrics

369 Views. 284 Visitors.

Google Scholar: Search for Children Related Content

 

Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Children
  • Author: Gareth H. Jones
  • Description: The Children and the 1834 Report In this issue about the children, the book English Poor Law Policy [1] reads as follows: [...]

This entry was last updated: April 17, 2017

CH


Long Read


Poor Law Board

Recent Comments