17 MAY 1879, Page 13


[TO THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR:1 '&14—There is a small, unpretentious work going on in the East of London, connected with a much larger movement of social reform, to which I should be glad to call attention. All social reformers are aware of the great influence which the English Poor-Law has on the life and habits of the people, and most are agreed as to the pernicious effects which the out-relief system has had on habits of providence and self-help. This system, which might have been a palliative for worse evils in -pre-Free-trade times, is now out of date, and several Boards of Guardians, particularly in the East of London, have determined to put an end to it, by adding no fresh permanent cases to the out-relief list. The reform is a most salutary and needful one, but it may press hardly in the case of those who, having been thrifty in the old, severe times, have exhausted their narrow savings through no fault of their own, and thus find themselves, friendless and helpless, confronted with an offer of in-door relief. Many persons are anxious to find a sphere in which charitable contributions may be really useful, but hold their hands, from the knowledge that such aid is too frequently wasted in work that does not profit, if it does not indeed inflict serious and last- ing injury on the moral character of those on whom it is be- stowed. The Tower Hamlets Pension Society was formed two years ago to meet the cases I allude to, and give pensions to such old persons of good character, needing assistance, as can give proof of provident habits, whose relations are doing all they can for them, and who can show that a small weekly allowance would enable them to live decently. The organised operations of the Society will cease after a certain date ; they are not meant for the new generation, who must be taught to rely on its own thrift and economy, and to use the opportunities which are freely presented to it of making provision for old age. The Pension Society employs no paid officials. The expenses are defrayed by the Committee, who themselves personally in- quire into the cases, after previous investigation by the Charity Organisation Society ; whatever is given goes therefore direct to the poor. The Society covers at present the three Poor Law Districts, with a population of 180,000, in which the Guardians have made a determined stand against out-door relief, viz., Stepney, Whitechapel, and St. George's in the East. If you think the enterprise of sufficient importance for notice in the Spectator, I make no doubt the admission of this letter into your columns will be of real service to the Society.—I am, Sir, &c., ALBERT PELL.

P.S.—I shall be happy, as Chairman, to answer any inquiries, directed to me at 9 Cleveland Row, St. James's.