HL Deb 16 June 1874 vol 219 cc1673-5

asked if it is correct that the Inspector of the Local Government Board has recently reported that during the past year out of 407 children under two years of ago in the St. Pancras Union-house 89 have died? He was not in possession of sufficient information to enter upon the subject of the general management of St. Pancras Union, nor had he any information which would enable him to state particulars relating to the terrible mortality; but if the facts to which he desired to call attention were correct, it was quite certain there must be some unusual circumstances connected with this institution which demanded inquiry, the mortality being an annual death-rate of 215 in 1,000, which, unless it arose from some contagious or infectious disease, was almost unprecedented. The noble Lord who represented the Local Government Board in that House (Lord Walsingham) would correct him if he was wrong; but he believed that in the St. Pancras Workhouse all the nurses, with one exception, were pauper inmates; and as regarded the dietary of the children it chiefly consisted, as he was informed, of preserved milk largely diluted with water, and of pork. The case to which he had referred was, he hoped, an exceptional one; but in calling the attention of Her Majesty's Government to it he desired to remind their Lordships that there were many evils arising from the crowding together of children in Union schools and Workhouses. Some years ago—he believed under the advice of the Poor Law Board—large District Union schools were formed which, it was supposed, would be advantageous both in a sanitary and moral point of view; but there was reason to fear that those expectations had not been realized, and it had recently been brought under his notice that a Committee of the Croydon Board of Guardians had reported that these establishments did not answer the purposes for which they were intended. In a sanitary point of view the subject was one which he thought deserved the attention of Her Majesty's Government. He begged to ask the Question of which he had given Notice.


said, the Local Government Board had not received any official reports on the matter referred to—the information they had received was contained in some informal Minutes written by their Inspectors—but it was true that out of 407 children admitted last year into St. Pancras Workhouse 89 had died, showing a death-rate of 215 per 1,000. The Local Government Board, having had its attention called to the subject, addressed a letter to the Guardians of St. Pancras Union, directing their serious attention to the high rate of mortality which had prevailed, and to some matters connected with the diet of the children, as well as some slight dereliction of duty on the part of one of the nurses, and requesting the Board of Guardians to acquaint them with the result of their inquiries. In answer to that letter a communication was received from the Board of Guardians in which it was stated that the matters referred to had been made the subject of careful inquiry, and some reasons were mentioned which had contributed to the high rate of mortality. The mortality occurred chiefly in the sick children's ward, and many of the children were sent there in a hopeless condition. Owing to the illness of mothers, and in numerous cases of desertion, many of the children were brought up by hand, and in such cases the death-rate was always high. Seven children had died from wilful neglect and exposure to cold before they were admitted, and two from accidents. Measles had also prevailed during four weeks of last year in a severe form, and caused, directly or indirectly, 10 deaths in the sick children's ward. As to diet, pork had been mentioned; and the medical officer considered pork was not fit food for children; he entirely disapproved of it, and it was not in the general dietary of the children. It turned out, however, to have been given in one instance without his knowledge, but only to the extent of 1½oz., and to children of two years of age and upwards—so that it could not have contributed to increase the rate of infant mortality. Condensed milk had been used during the latter part of the year; but it was of the best quality, of the same specific gravity with cows' milk, and was liked better. It had, however, been given up, and cows' milk substituted. The general condition of the nurses had occupied the serious attention of the Guardians, and there were certain alterations proposed which were now before the Local Government Board for approval. The general death-rate of children up to two years was found to be 150 in 1,000, and certainly the case which had been brought under their Lordships' notice was one of excessive mortality; but he had no doubt that now that the Board of Guardians had had their attention directed to it, further precaution would be adopted, and the mischief diminished. He had no objection to lay upon the Table the Correspondence relating to the case to which he had referred if his noble Friend would move for it.

Moved, "That there be laid before this House Report of the Inspector of the Local Government Board on the subject of the high rate of mortality among infants in the workhouse of the Parish of St. Pancras during the past year."—(The Earl De La Warr)

Motion agreed to.