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Co-operation With Voluntary Agencies in United Kingdom

Co-operation with Voluntary Agencies and the Poor Law Board

In this issue about co-operation with voluntary agencies, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: A noteworthy feature of the very end of this period was the emphasis suddenly laid upon the importance of systematic co-operation between the Poor Law and voluntary charitable agencies. This was the novel feature of Mr. Goschen’s celebrated Minute of 20th November 1869. His object was “to avoid the double distribution of relief to the same persons, and at the same time to secure that the most effective use should be made” of voluntary funds. With this view he sought “to mark out the separate limits of the Poor Law and of charity respectively, and how it is possible to secure joint action between the two.” He suggested that voluntary agencies should undertake the following:-

(a) The necessary supplementing of insufficient incomes-and he does not here distinguish between earnings, dividends, pensions, and family contributions-“leaving to the operation of the Law the provision for the totally destitute.”

(b) Donations of bedding, clothing, or other similar articles not provided by the guardians (as distinguished from food or money) to persons in receipt of outdoor relief.

(c) Services to such persons which are beyond the power of the guardians (such as the redemption from pawn or the purchase of tools or clothes, and the expenses of migration).

It was suggested that charitable agencies and the relieving officers should bring to each other’s notice all cases falling within each other’s spheres, in order that none might be overlooked; systematically giving each other also information of all cases that were being relieved, so as to prevent any overlapping. Mr. Goschen seems to have thought it beyond the power of the Poor Law Board to do anything to set going any joint action between the Metropolitan boards of guardians and charitable agencies. He did not convene a conference or initiate a joint committee, or even circulate his proposal to the Metropolitan charities; though he had evidently been advised that the services both of the officers of the Poor Law Board and of those of the guardians could legally be used “to assist in systematising … relief operations in various parts of the Metropolis,” and “to facilitate the communication between the official and private agencies”; and that Poor Law funds could be drawn on for remuneration for their extra work and for the necessary printing. He confined himself literally to sending his Minute to the Metropolitan boards of guardians, with a request for their views upon it. In reply, he got little beyond a series of expositions of the apparent impracticability of his proposals. In commenting on these replies, the Central Authority did not pursue Mr. Goschen’s suggestions, but urged only “increased vigilance and the appointment of more relieving officers” on the one hand,and on the other the grant of “more adequate relief.” There the matter rested, for though systematic co-operation between charities and the Poor Law has since been assumed to be the policy of the Central Authority, we cannot find that there has ever been any second official statement on the subject.

To the historian of Poor Law policy, Mr. Goschen’s Minute is important as the first indication of what we shall see developing in the ensuing period-an attempt to restrict the range of operations of the Poor Law, which here began to battle with the opposite tendency to extend the range of those operations, and to improve their quality, which, as we have seen, had marked the whole reign of the Poor Law Board with regard to children and persons of unsound mind; and which had, from 1865, taken such a stride onwards in the provision of hospitals and dispensaries for the sick, and improved accommodation for the workhouse inmates.

Co-operation With Voluntary Agencies and the Local Government Board

In this issue about co-operation with voluntary agencies, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: We left Mr. Goschen and the Poor Law Board much impressed with the value of systematic and organised co-operation with voluntary organisations in order to avoid the combination of outdoor relief with any other source of income. In 1873 we find an interesting report by Miss Octavia Hill on official and voluntary agencies in administering relief, which the Central Authority published and commended. But, in spite of Mr. Goschen, the boards of guardians by no means invariably accepted the doctrine of never giving outdoor relief in aid of other pecuniary resources. The Brixworth Guardians, indeed, as part of their strict policy, refused to accord any favour to the person having an allowance from a friendly society; but even they seem to have made up from the poor rate the amount necessary for full maintenance. Most other boards of guardians, however, as the Central Authority was officially informed in 1873, reckoned, by a rough compromise, the friendly society pay at half its amount, in flat contradiction of the dictum of the Central Authority of 1840 and 1870. This course was incidentally reproved by the Central Authority in 1888. “The guardians,” it was stated, “are bound to take into consideration all the means of support possessed by the applicant; … if … the allowance from the club or society appears to the guardians to be inadequate to meet all the requirements of the case, they should take such allowance into account in determining what amount of relief is required to relieve the destitution of the applicant.” It was, however, apparently found impracticable to take any official action; and there is, until 1894, scarcely any later mention of the subject. The policy of “all or nothing,” which Mr. Goschen had suggested as a counsel of perfection, was, in fact, not persisted in by the Local Government Board. The practice of making up insufficient incomes, whether derived from charity, from property or friendly society allowance or annuity, or even (in the case of women) from earnings, continued; not infrequently with the explicit sanction of the Central Authority. In 1894 the policy of supplementing other resources received a partial sanction from Parliament. By the Outdoor Relief Friendly Societies Act 1894, boards of guardians were legally empowered if they thought fit, to ignore the fact that an applicant for relief had a friendly society allowance. This gave a legal sanction to the usual compromise of counting such an allowance at half its value, and thus giving the thrifty person half the advantage of his thrift. It is difficult to see how the case of a person having a small friendly society allowance could be logically distinguished from that of a person having other means or sources of income insufficient to maintain him. Presently the Central Authority expressly extended the new doctrine to other forms of saving. In 1903 it declared that relief in supplement of property (in case of sickness or infirmity of the applicant or any dependent) was lawful. In the case of an applicant actually possessing property, “if the guardians are satisfied, after due inquiry, that the means possessed by an applicant are insufficient to support himself and family, they are empowered, subject to the regulations in force, to grant such relief as will meet the necessities of the case.” In the following year Parliament followed suit by expressly enacting that boards of guardians should not under any circumstances take into consideration any friendly society allowance up to 5s. a week. There is, accordingly, in 1907 reported to be much outdoor relief avowedly given in supplement of charitable aid and other sources of income.

This kind of co-operation between voluntary agencies and the Poor Law, in the pecuniary relief of the same individual, is, as we need hardly point out, in direct contravention of the principle enunciated by Mr. Goschen in 1869. Nothing, in fact, has been done since Mr. Goschen’s Circular that is even in the direction, so far as domiciliary relief is concerned, of the entire allocation of particular cases to one kind of organised aid or the other. On the other hand, there has been, since 1871, an almost continuous encouragement of another kind of co-operation, namely, the use, by the Poor Law Authority, of institutions under voluntary management for the maintenance and treatment of particular classes of paupers, at the expense, wholly or partially, of the poor rates. The number of paupers who are technically in receipt of outdoor relief, but who are, in fact, maintained in specialised voluntary institutions, is always increasing. Certified schools for children of all denominations, and with all kinds of defects; certified sanatoria and convalescent homes for the sick; voluntary hospitals of all kinds and sorts; industrial and reformatory institutions for the able-bodied; asylums for the crippled and the epileptic, and the various kinds of “Farm Colonies” are all now admitted as laudable experiments, expressly authorised, systematically inspected, and extensively subsidised, in the curative treatment of destitute persons. We may infer that it is in institutional treatment of this sort rather than in domiciliary relief that the Central Authority maintains the principle of co-operation with voluntary agencies that Mr. Goschen laid down.


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


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

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  • Article Name: Co-operation With Voluntary Agencies
  • Author: J. G. Collier
  • Description: Co-operation with Voluntary Agencies and the Poor Law Board In this issue about co-operation with voluntary agencies, the [...]

This entry was last updated: November 4, 2020


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