HC Deb 28 February 1871 vol 204 cc1031-2

asked the President of the Poor Law Board, Whether he has noticed a statement in "The Times" of the 23rd instant, and signed by Robert Brett, surgeon, Stoke Newington Green, containing a description of several families in the parishes of St. Augustine and St. Chad, Haggerstone, in a terrible state of want and destitution, and suffering from small pox; whether he has taken, or intends to take, any steps to ascertain the truth of that statement; and, whether the authorities of those parishes are fully and adequately performing their duties under the existing Poor Law in respect of those families so suffering, as stated?


replied, that his attention had been called to the matter, and that he had taken steps to ascertain the truth of the statement in question by communicating with the gentleman who had written the letter, and with the relieving officer of the parish. No doubt the locality was in a terrible state of suffering, and when the horrors of small pox in any household was considered it could easily be imagined what they must be in the densely crowded dwellings of the poor. With regard to the destitution, Mr. Brett in his letter admitted that no blame attached to the parochial authorities. One of the families which was visited almost daily by the relieving officer, was in receipt of 10s. a-week for medical comforts and sustenance, besides what was derived from other charitable sources. The relieving officer offered 20s. to a nurse to attend to the children of the family without success. The great difficulty, he might add, was not to find money, but to find nurses. He was bound to state, in justice to the authorities, that Mr. Brett, in his communication, stated that such was the extraordinary feeling they were almost glad to find still existing among the poorer classes with regard to parochial relief, that many of the families concealed from the relieving officers the fact that small pox existed in their houses, though they had to pay private medical men small sums for their visits and medicine. Mr. Brett said— I have heard of the authorities going from house to house to find out cases, and being told there were none a few moments after the doctor had left. The hon. Baronet would see the extreme difficulty which local authorities had in dealing with these questions; but all that could be done had been done by them in the way of providing not only provisions, but clothing, bedding, fuel, and other necessaries.