HC Deb 09 August 1883 vol 282 cc2088-9

asked the Vice President of the Council, If his attention has been called to the fact stated in the last Report of the Lunacy Commissioners that, while the number of pauper children has decreased since the passing of the Education Act from 393,000 in 1871 to 270,000 in 1882, the number of pauper lunatic children has increased from 969 to 1,332; and that the proportion of pauper lunatic children to pauper children has increased during the same period from 24 to 49 pertentage; and, whether he will cause special inquiry to be made by Her Majesty's School Inspectors during the ensuing year on the subject of over pressure in the elementary schools of the Country?


Sir, the figures stated in the hon. Member's Question are perfectly accurate; but I must qualify that statement by pointing out that they have no relation to each other, or to the Education Act of 1870. It is gratifying to find that, notwithstanding an increase of population between 1871 and 1882 of about 4,000,000, the number of pauper children fell, in these 11 years, from 393,000 to 270,000. It is true there was an increase of 369 pauper children of defective intellect during the same period; but these are a permanent and growing charge on the community, whereas the larger figures, representing children in receipt of relief, are fluctuating, and since 1863 have, with occasional variations, been steadily declining. The increased number of 369 insane pauper children is due to the increase of population, to the advantages of better treatment and inspection of idiot asylums and licensed houses, and to the fact that a Government grant was given in 1875 towards the maintenance of this class in asylums. I have conferred with the noble Earl the Chairman of the Lunacy Commissioners (the Earl of Shaftesbury), and he informs me that an insane child is rarely met with, that it is not monomania or dementia from which these children suffer, but that they are generally idiots or imbecile children who, being afflicted with cerebral weakness from their birth, require special care and treatment. He authorized me to add that, in his opinion, seven-tenths of the lunacy of the country is due to intemperance. I have already made inquiry of several of the senior Inspectors as to the alleged over-pressure, and I shall continue to watch very carefully the effect of the New Code in this respect. I am as sincerely anxious to prevent the over-taxing of children and teachers as my hon. Friend who has put the Question, or anyone in this House can be. I hope he will forgive me for reminding him that he was one of the members of a deputation who came to remonstrate with me for reducing the hours of pupil-teachers.