Letters to the Editor
LONDON POOR LAW ADMINISTRATION .[To the Editor of. the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—I am desired by the members of this Society to welcome what you- said in your article " The Task of the Session," in your issue of November 10th. From our point of view, the essentially new feature of the scheme which was adopted by the London County Council by a large majority yesterday, lies in the composition- of the Committees who will adjudicate upon applications for outdoor relief. Hitherto, in the large industrial areas of London—and the new scheme will make very little difference in other areas—people have sought
election to Boards of Guardians by promising their neighbours, relatives, and even the lodgers in their houses, what they will do for them in the way of outdoor relief. -Mr. Morrison, leader of the London Labour Party, assured us at a public
meeting the other day, that the experience of his members who have secured election by these means has been a cruel and impossible one in recent years, and one which they do not care to repeat. These applications, according to the, new scheme, will, it is hoped, be allowed or rejected by Committees nominated from County Hall, an the sole ground of their capacity to do the work well. We are relying upon the County Council to select and nominate—if I may use your own words—" those public-spirited people who voluntarily devote a large part of their time to the kind of personal work," without which relief, whether from public or private sources, cannot "help the recipients to help themselves." Speaking for a democratic society, I need hardly add that, in our experience, these admirable people are to be found in all classes of society.
During the years that this proposal has been discussed by those interested in public assistance, two difficulties have frequently been urged. First, that London does not contain a sufficient supply of such persons. We have not far to seek for a reply. There are, in the County of London, 5,000 persons giving up a considerable part of their time to the work of the School Care Committees. These deal with a much larger population than will come under the purview of the new Home Assistance Committees. There are besides, very considerable numbers serving in kindred branches of social service.
Second : It has been held that people qualified to do this difficult and responsible work will never put up with the amount of control which will be exercised from County Hall, under the new Act. There again, the experience of the School Care Committees is relevant. The whole plan of their work is laid down by the County Council. In a good many respects considerations which the Council, as an elected body, cannot ignore, make the work trying and difficult. Its due performance does actually demand unlimited patience and a selfless devotion to the real and ultimate good of the children of London. This by no means always coincides with their wishes or those of their parents ! Despite these trials, the Care Committees have retained throughout the twenty years of their existence the unremunerated and rarely acknowledged services of quite an army of the finest social workers in London. We hold this to be an admirable augury for the success of the scheme which the London County Council has resolved to implement.
- It has been said by an exalted personage, " It will now be possible to do constructive case work under the Poor Laws." We agree. But we submit that the nearer the acquaintance the more exacting that work is found to Ise. Except as team work, case work is never successful. It is for the new Com- mittees appointed by the Council, to bring into their team from the beginning the tried and experienced voluntary agencies they will find at work in their areas.—I am, Sir, &c., J. C. PRINGLE, Seeretary, Charity Organization Society, Denison House, 296 Vauxhall Bridge Road.