HL Deb 23 June 1874 vol 220 cc289-92

said, that when he recently called the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the very great mortality of pauper children in the St. Pancras Union, he referred to the question of Union district schools. In moving for the Return of which he had given Notice, his object was to ask the attention of their Lordships to the comparative advantages of Union schools—especially district Union schools—and the system of boarding out pauper children. He was aware that information on this subject had at different times been laid on the Table of the House; more especially since the Order bearing on this question issued by Mr. Goschen, when President of the Poor Law Board, in the year 1870. The object of that Order was to enable Boards of Guardians to place out orphans and deserted children beyond the limits of the Union. Previous to this, it had been competent for Board of Guardians to place out these children only within the limits of the Union. It should be observed that these regulations applied only to orphans and deserted children; but although it was computed that there were upwards of 20,000 pauper children of this class in England and Wales, it appeared that not more than 2,500 were boarded out. In 47 Unions in England and Wales, in the year 1873, where the system of boarding out children was adopted, the Guardians, with very few exceptions, expressed satisfaction at the results, and thence it might be inferred that it was from the want of encouragement and support that the practice was not more general. It would doubtless very materially assist if the views of the Local Government Board were better known, and if Boards of Guardians were put in possession of facts founded upon the experience which had been acquired. It had been found that the evils arising from the massing together of children, and especially of pauper children—not always the most healthy—were very great. He had an instance before him of a case which had occurred in the Kingston (Surrey) Union—he believed in the year 1872. The Board of Guardians sent some of the children to the district schools at Penge; but they reported that the result was most unsatisfactory. They did not find fault with the arrangements at Penge, but they gave as their opinion—he believed these were the words—that it was "the natural consequence of massing together so large a number of children of the pauper class;" and it was further stated that "many of the children who had been sent to the Penge district school healthy and strong returned in a deplorable state to their homes after a few weeks stay at the school, suffering from ophthalmia and cutaneous diseases." The Board of Guardians afterwards tried the boarding out system with success. It had also been recently stated, with reference to the large school at Anerley, that the Croydon Board of Guardians had had great difficulties to contend with in consequence of persistent ophthalmia affecting the children. There were many other instances of the evils in a sanitary point of view of bringing together large numbers of children. He might here mention that this system of boarding out children received the sanction of the late President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Stansfeld) in 1873. That right hon. Gentleman said— The reports which we have received on the children generally are favourable as to their health, appearance, and management, and exhibit a satisfactory result in this respect of the system of boarding out orphan and deserted pauper children under the immediate supervision of committees who voluntarily undertake the duty. Then, as regarded the moral aspect of the question, he should desire to say one word. It was, unhappily, a certain fact that a Union-house education exercised a very injurious influence upon the future moral and social character of the children. He had before him a reliable statement to the effect that in one instance out of 80 girls educated in a Union school, scarcely one escaped moral degradation in after life, and he feared it was not a solitary instance. It could not be doubted that these evils would be greatly-mitigated if orphan and deserted children were placed under the bettor influences of home and domestic life. Then, with reference to the question as affecting the ratepayers, it could not, he believed, be shown that the ratepayers derived any advantage from having large Union or district schools. The subject was recently discussed at the Lancashire Sessions at Preston, and it appeared that the cost of each child at the Swinton District School, near Manchester—stated to be one of the best of the class—was 6s. 4d. a week, and at the Leeds Schools 7s. 7d.; whereas in England the average on the boarding out system seemed to be about 5s., and in Scotland, where it was very general, it did not much exceed 3s. 6d. or 4s. Similar facts, he believed, had appeared in Returns made to the Local Government Board, showing that the average cost of a child in a district school was nearly 10s. a week, and that on the boarding out system it did not exceed 5s. This system, which had prevailed in Scotland for many years, had been attended with great success. There it was not confined to orphans and deserted children only, and it was stated that upwards of 7,000 were placed out to be boarded and taken care of. Mr. Henley, in a Report to the Poor Law Board in the year 1870, on this system as practised in Scotland, said— Boarded out children certainly acquire a more robust constitution, and apparently greater mental activity, than children reared in an ordinary workhouse, and these two points strike at the very root of pauperism, as the majority who fall upon the rates do so from mental or physical weakness. He ventured to think that the facts to which he had thus briefly referred, which were only a few out of many, would recommend the system to more general adoption if the advantages in a physical, moral, and economical point of view were better known, and if it was more fully sanctioned by the Local Government Board.

Moved, That there be laid before the House— Return of the number of orphan and deserted pauper children boarded-out on 1st of July 1874 in different Unions in England and Wales, distinguishing those boarded-out under the regulations of the Local Government Board from those placed out within the Union but not under those regulations; also the number on the same day of pauper children in each of the district schools at Anerley and Hanwell, showing in both cases the average cost per week of each child to the ratepayers; and also a statement showing the average cost per week of a pauper maintained in a workhouse in the Metropolis and also in the other Unions in England and Wales.—(The Earl De La Warr.)


said, there was no objection to the production of the Return moved for his noble Friend. He thought, however, that his noble Friend was mistaken as to the scope of the last of the Acts relating to the boarding out of children. Under the provisions of that Act all children charged on the rates, except the children of able-bodied paupers, might be boarded out. His noble Friend recommended the boarding-out system as being economical as well as possessing the other advantages which he had described it as possessing. The Guardians throughout the country were not in general slow to avail themselves of what would effect a saving, and he did not think it likely that they would have overlooked that consideration in this case.

Motion agreed to.