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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56

Friendless and Pauper Children

Friendless and Pauper Children.

In further promotion of the interests of neglected children, the Committee have recently prepared and widely circulated, a paper entitled "The Supervision of Pauper and Friendless Children,"treating of the greater economy and efficiency of the individualising principle of management, with systematic supervision by a combination of voluntary with official action, as compared with the costly pauperising tendencies of barrack-like institutions for such children and of excessive expenditure upon their support.

This paper has been very favourably received by the press and by persons practically interested in the subject.

In connection with this question, it may be here mentioned that in their last year's Report, the Committee, always anxious to make just acknowledgment of well-meant efforts, took occasion to observe that "it is due to the District Schools, for Pauper Children, to state that they give a much better industrial training and settlement to Boys than is usually obtainable by Boarding-out. But in regard to Girls the case is different."Hereupon Miss Joanna M. Hill, an active member of a Committee of Supervision of children boarded out at King's Norton Union, near Birmingham, has written to inform the Committee that page 9 this concession to the merits of the District Schools is too generous to that class of institutions as compared with boarding-out. And the Committee are now informed that around Birmingham it is found, in practice, that boys who are boarded out in carefully-selected cottage homes are as well trained in industrial skill as in the far more costly establishments and schools. (The same correspondent has forwarded a copy of a new pamphlet which the Committee are glad to recommend as being one of the best and most comprehensive upon this question, entitled "The Education of Pauper Children, Industrially and otherwise,"by Rev. J. O. Bevan, Chaplain to the Aston Union Workhouse, near Birmingham, to be hail of the Author, price 6d.)

The latest annual report of the King's Norton Union Committee states that "The Hoarding-out System prepares the boys, almost without exception, to be fit to earn their own living without any expensive training in special trades, at 13 years of age, instead of retaining them until 14 or 15, which seems to be necessary under other systems. Not one of the 31 boys who have been boarded-out under our charge, and, having ceased to be paupers on attaining 13 years of age, has since become chargeable to the rates for any cause whatsoever."

But not merely in the general oversight but also in the original selection of children for Boarding-out, is great care essential. An esteemed member of the Howard Association, residing in Westmorland, writes to the Committee:—"The unhealthiness of the children sent down here (from the cities) goes far to defeat the labour and expense which is undergone for them. This refers to the Girls. Few are fit to go into service on a par with other girls. My impression is that the most indifferent in health and constitution are sent down here."-Very favourable reports, however, are the general result of the system.

In dealing with neglected children, grave difficulties present themselves on every hand, and it is especially needful to endeavour so to act as to avoid an increase of pauperisation by the very means designed to relieve destitution.

The aged, the infirm, the blind, the orphan, these and such as these are objects for charity. Yet even in these cases some care is requisite that the gifts bestowed do not obviate any measure of self-help still possible. But where free education, free board and lodging and clothing, all at the expense of the hard-working and honest tax-payer are offered by wholesale to the families of the improvident, the intemperate and the indolent, they will be sure to accept such offers greedily and spend the money, thus saved to themselves, in further vice and drunkenness.

Both in Great Britain and the United States, there is a large and dangerous amount of practical Communism extending into the management of Pauper Schools, Reformatories, Industrial Schools, and last, but not least, even into the Board Schools. The honest and hard-working classes of tax-payers need more jealously to watch their own interests in these matters. Scores of thousands of wilfully neglected children will be increasingly supplied by willingly improvident parents to the perniciously too hospitable doors of such institutions.

It is in view of the increasing dangers of this wholesale public pauperisation, under the guise of a false benevolence, that the Committee of the Howard Association continue to advocate more discrimination, and more economy in these directions. Hence they have promoted the Boarding-out of Pauper Children, which costs about £12 per annum, or even less, rather than the £25 or £30 each, which is now annually expended upon upwards of ten thousand children in the Metropolitan district alone. The boarded-out children are found to be free from the ophthalmia, itch, and other diseases which infest the best Pauper District Schools, whilst they (especially the girls) also become more self-helpful in after-life than the inmates of the latter.

An active member of the Committee of a large Industrial School, near Manchester, lately wrote to the Howard Association deprecating some of their criticisms upon the costliness of many such establishments. He stated that 80 per cent, or more of the children ultimately turn out well. This is so far page 10 good. But the point which he appeared, like many other kind-hearted men, to quite overlook, and which is of still greater importance, is how best to prevent so many children from being turned in to pauper schools and similar institutions.

There are two other modes of aid to destitute children which may be cordially recommended.

The first of these is the opening of suitable reading and recreation rooms, supplied with light and warmth, for use in wet and inclement weather. A Wesleyan Minister recently made the experiment of hiring a large room for the winter, with fire, gas, and a few books and periodicals. He allowed a certain number of poor boys and girls the free use of this room, on condition of quietness and good behaviour. These conditions were well observed and at the end of the season the poor children most gratefully thanked their benefactor for the welcome and truly useful boon he had bestowed upon them.

The municipal authorities of Birmingham have on various occasions utilized some of the Board School Booms and Bingley Hall for somewhat similar objects. Doubtless in many cases the recipients of such accommodation would willingly pay a small amount towards the expenses. But a more general provision of accommodation and recreation in this direction is as yet one of the chief desiderata of modern philanthropy. It is to be hoped that the coming few years may largely solve the problem.

Another way of helping this class of children is to be found in the praiseworthy action already begun by several Municipal bodies, as at Bradford, Nottingham, Birmingham, Leicester, &c., in promoting local bye-laws against the employment of very young children in selling papers, &c., in the streets at night. The Birmingham bye-law forbids any parent to send a child, under twelve years of age, for street traffic, after nine o'clock. In one or two cases such occupation of any children, under eight or ten years, is forbidden at any hour.

But, finally, every form of juvenile destitution and neglect is mainly the result of parental Intemperance. Hence the most effective of all counteractives consists in the best means for promoting Temperance, with its attendant train of industrious, thrifty, and moral habits.