HC Deb 23 August 1894 vol 29 cc356-8

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board what are the requirements of the Board for the appointment of Inspectors of the Local Government Board; what are the technical qualifications required; whether their duties include reporting on the nursing of the sick poor in infirmaries, and the management of the hospital wards; how far they can be considered responsible for not having reported on the condition of things officially admitted to have existed at Oldham, Bath, and other provincial workhouse infirmaries which are now known to be wholly unprovided with trained nurses for the attendance on the sick and aged people at night; and whether he is cognisant of the Reports on this subject on 12 provincial workhouses and infirmaries, in The British Medical Journal, all of them described in detail as disclosing cruel and shocking defects in the treatment of the sick poor?


No Rules have been laid down as to the qualifications for the office of General Inspector of the Local Government Board. During the last 20 years the officers appointed have almost without exception held office as Assistant Inspectors, and have thus obtained experience in the inspection of workhouses and the other duties which devolve on an Inspector. There are also two Medical Inspectors, one of whom acts in the Provinces, and is associated with the Inspector of the district in special inspections where the advice and assistance of a medical man is deemed desirable. It is the duty of the Inspectors when they visit the sick wards of a workhouse to inquire as to their arrange- ments, ascertain from the inmates whether they have any complaints, and report to the Board the result of the inspection, and especially any matters which they consider require a communication to the Guardians from the Board. They themselves deal with many other matters by direct communication with the Guardians. I have read with great regret the reports which have appeared in the journal referred to, and they are receiving my very careful attention. I have instructed the Inspector to deal with them in connection with his visits to the workhouses, and when it appears to be required a joint visit will be made by a Medical Inspector. I am aware that there are many Unions in which the Guardians still rely to a much greater extent than is desirable on the assistance given to the nurses by pauper wardsmen and wardswomen, and the subject is one that is constantly being brought under the attention of Boards of Guardians. In several of the cases mentioned the nursing arrangements have been the subject of communications either by the Board or their Inspectors. Although much remains to be done, I am glad to be able to state that there has been of late years a considerable increase in the number of nurses, and this, to a large extent, has been secured by the influence of the Board and their Inspectors. The importance of the questions affecting the care and comfort of the sick is fully realised by me, and I will give the whole subject my very careful consideration during the Recess.


As the right hon. Gentleman says the Inspectors are so well qualified, how is it it took them so long to discover the cruelties practised at the Brentwood Schools?


It is very difficult, indeed, for the Inspectors to discover cases of that kind unless complaint is made to them, and in such a case the children would be likely to be so terrorized that they would be afraid to make a complaint.


Do the Inspectors take any opportunity of seeing the children themselves?


Yes, they do.


Do the Inspectors ever see the children after they leave the schools?


That has been done in some cases, but even then it is not always possible to ascertain the facts. For instance, one of the children from this school became a servant in the household of the Inspector, and neither informed him or her fellow-servants of the treatment which children in the school had been subjected to.