HC Deb 10 February 1887 vol 310 cc1088-9
MR. NEWNES (Cambridge, E., Newmarket)

asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether he is aware that, on the bitterly cold night of 12–13th January, a woman and her two infant children, in a half-starved condition, were refused admittance to the Holborn Workhouse, and that, had they not been taken to the police station, and there fed and warmed, they might have died of cold and hunger; and whether he will take steps to so alter the administration of the Poor Law, so that such an incident may be made impossible?

THE PRESIDENT (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)

The facts with regard to the case alluded to have been inquired into by the Guardians. It appears that the woman referred to, who was accompanied by her sister, applied for admission to the workhouse after midnight, and that she was then told that, as she had no order of a relieving officer, she should go to the casual ward, which was within a distance of less than one-third of a mile. In about a quarter of an hour she returned without her sister, and on being again told that she should go to the casual ward, she in strong language refused to do so. She was found by a policeman about half an hour afterwards lying on the pavement, and as she was again refused admission, she was taken to the station, where she was charged with being without any visible means of subsistence. It is admitted by the woman that she had been in the neighbourhood all the day, and there would appear to have been no sufficient reason why, if she was destitute, she should have deferred applying until after midnight for relief for herself and her children, or why she did not go to the casual ward, where she would have been at once admitted. There is a conflict of evidence as to whether the policeman told the porter, when he found the woman on the pavement, that she had been drinking; she herself only admits having shared three half-pints of beer. Whatever blame, however, may attach to the woman herself, it is very much to be regretted that she and her children should have been allowed to lie on the pavement on a cold night in consequence of having been refused admission to the workhouse; and the porter has been censured by the Guardians for not having called the attention of the matron to the case. I may observe that there is ample accommodation in the casual wards of the Metropolis, and that it rarely happens that two-thirds of the beds in these wards are occupied.