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CHARITABLE AID

[A paper read before the Southern Cross Society, Wellington; by A.-R, Atkinson.]

“not a single pauper

The Right Hon, the Premier of this colony is said to have stated to a reporter of the-London ‘Evening News* that there is not a single pauper in the colony. If the. statement v ere correct, it would not be right for me take up the time of a society which is practical in its aims with a. discussion on “Charitable Aid,’ for that subject would then possess for us little more than an academic interest. But unfortunately the statement is not true; and it is because New Zealand already numbers her paupers by the thousand, and because I believe a large part of them to be the product of a vicious system of administration, that I ask you to consider this subject here to-night. Our Premier would have been nearer the truth if be had told the deputationwhichwelcomedhi i: onhislanding at Liverpool that during the previous year this young, favored, and iparsely-populated country spent upon the maintenance of its poor an amount not tar short of that levied for a similar purpose upon the ratepayers of the great city on the Mersey, with its almost equal population and its teeming slums. I have not the latest Liverpool figures by mo, but ray statement is based upon the fact that the poor rates of that city for the year 1885, when its population was some 580,000, amounted to £103,062 ; while the charitable aid expenditure of New Zealand for the year 1891-96, the population being 700,003, was £106,536. The comparison ’s surety a very striking one, and one well calculated to make even the most thoughtless of us pause before he next crows over the supposed success of our experiments with the social problem.

SOME EXCUSE FOR THE PREMIER.

The pursuit of the parallel a step will lead ua to another interesting point. The paupers of Liverpool must amount to something like 20,030. Wliat is tin ir number in New Zealand ? Mr Seddon might bo excused for having some difficulty in answerings this question, for my request to tire department last week for information on the point was mot with the reply that the number could not be given owing to tlx - inadequacy of the returns supplied by the local bodies The fact is worth mentioning merely as characteristic of the charmingly chaotic and go-as-you-please style of our system of poor relief. "We are privileged to have £103,000 of our money spent upon charitable aid, but we a r e not privileged to know the number of the recipients. I presume they cannot be much less than 10,000.

THE STATISTICS' OF NEW ZEALAND PAUPERISM. But the direction in which we arc tending will be made sufficiently obvious by a glance at the amounts spent year by year for tnis purpose. The following tabic gives the total of the public expenditure for every complete year since the abolition of the provinces, except the years 1886-88, for which no returns are obtainable. Previously to 1889 the expenses of indoor and outdoor cannot he separated :

WHAT THE FIGURES SHOW. These figures show that during the last twenty years, while cur population has been increasing J5 per cent., the burden of public charity has

increased more than 400 per cent. The cost per head of European population has risen from an average of 10jd for the first three years of the period to an average of 2s 8;1, or just three times as much for the Ia -1 three. Our own part ot the colony has ba 1 more than its share in this enormous increase. The expenditure for the Wellington and Wairarapa district in 1377 was £721; 1881, £2 785; 1;85. £3,748; 1391, £10,122; 1b95, £18,093 In comparing the figures before and after 1835 allowance mint be made for the swamping of private by public charity, which was effected in ih-.t year by the Legislature in a manner shortly ’to bo’mentioneel; but we need not look beyond 1885 for an assurance of the extent and rapidity of the increase.

In ■Wellington City itself the increase bus been more than the average for iho c dony. The following table shows the amount during the last seven years of the EXPENDITURE OF WELLINGTON UENEVOLENT TRUST.

(.0 About £I,OOO spei (H) £11,300 spent on r‘

mt on Benevolent Home, ■elief works.

This tablo shows that during tho last seven years, while the population of .Wellington Oily has grown from 30,052 to 57,441—5n insreasa of 83 per oant,—the expenditure <>f its Benevolent 'Trustees has risen from £4,409 to £10,156-an increase of 120 per cent. There has been no alteration in tho lav; during that time to account for the cost of public charity in this city increasing nearly five times as fast as its population.

THE SYSTEM SINCE 1885.

Our present system of charitable aid is governed by the Hospitals and Charitable Institutions Act, 1835, and an important amending Act of the following year. The colony is divided for the purposes of this Act into twentylight districts, in each of which the management of tho hospitals and char ties is entrusted to a board elected by the local bodies within the district in certain proportions. Tho exclusive control of every charitable institution existing in any district at the time of the passing of the Act vested thereupon in the hoard for that district, but the institution resumed its independence upon becoming incorporated as a “separate institution ” under the Act, the local bodies concerned securing at the same time representation upon its executive. The Wellington Benevolent Society is in this position. The revenu s of the boards and institutions are derived from the rents and profits of lands and endowments vested in them, voluntary sub crij.tions, grants from contributory local bodies, and subsidies from the Consolidated Funl at the rate of 10s for every £1 of bequests (but not exceeding £SOO for any one bequest), 24s for every £1 of voluntary contributions, and £1 for every £1 received from any local body. 3 his provision had tho laudable object of preventing pubiio control from drying up the springs of private charity, but during the list seven years voluntary subscriptions have only averaged about 4 per cent, of the total contributions The assessment upon the various local bodies is the work of the district board, and the trustees of separate institutions have the happy privilege of te ling the board how much money they want each year, and, subject to an illusory right of appeal, of getting it.

NO RIGHT TO' RELIEF AND NO TEST.

_ No legal claim to relief of any kind is established or recognised by tho Act, nor are the obligations of the boards or.trustees in the matter at all closely defined. Their general function is declared to be the management of and charitable institutions and “the distribution of charitable aid,” and for these purposes they are empowered to make by-laws for the management of the institutions under their charge, and “ for the affording relief by medicine and attendance to outdoor patients, or tho administration of outdoor relief, and either directly or by means of any voluntary or other association formed for the purpose of providing or aiding in the administration of such relief ” No teat is imposed as a condition of obtaining relief, and the whole matter is left to the absolute discretion of the administrators. As a general rule they have followed the line of least resistance, and distributed outdoor relief with a free hand. But before examining the effect of this policy in New Zealand it will be well to consider the principles upon which any wbe provision £.'r public relief is based, and their beating upon the outdoor relief system

THE PRINCIPLES OP POOR RELIEF.

Those principles, in their most general form, could hardly be better expressed than in the words of Mill :

Apart from any metaphysical considerations respecting the foundation of morals or of the social union, it will be admitted to be right that human beings should help one another, aqd tho more so in proportion to the urgency of the need; and none needs help so urgently as one who is starving. The claim to help, therefore, created by destitution, is one of the strongest which can exist; and there is prima facie the amplest reason for making the relief of so extreme an exigency as certain, to • those who require it as by any arrangements of society it can be made. On other hand, in all cases of helping there are two sets of consequences to be considered —the consequences of the assistance itself and the consequences of relying on the assistance. The former are generally beneficial, but the latter for the niostrpart injurious, so much so, in many cases, as greatly to outweigh the value of the benefit. And this is never more likely to happen than in the very cases wheie the need of help is the most intense,

THE OLD POOH MW. The problem, then, is how to provide relief for the destitute, and at the same time to prevent those evils which must flow from its general and indiscriminate application—namely, the idleness of those who can work and will not, and the im* providence of those who can make provision for their children or for themselves in sickness and old age, but will not if the benevolence of the State can be relied on to see them through. The famous statute of 43 1 Izabotb, which laid the foundation of the English poor law system, was a statesmanlike attempt to cope with the difficulty. While establishing a legal right to relief in cases of necessity, it stuck at voluntary pauperism, and sought to compel the able-bodied to work In 1722 {9 George I.) the principle was pushed further, and a simple and efficacious test of need created. Parishes or unions of parishes were empowered to establish houses for the reception of the indigent, and it was expressly provided that “no poor who refu ed to be lodged and kept in such houses should be entitled to ask or receive parochial relief.” This provision, which is known as “the workhouse test,” was abolished in 1796 as_ “inconvenient and oppressive ” to the industrious poor, and outdoor relief to the ablebodied and in' aid of wages was expressly authorised. Within forty years the administration of this kind of relief had wrought more injury to the working classes than all the barbarous repressive legislation of the dark ages, and had biought the country nearer to moral and financial ruin than it had ever been brought by a foreign foe.

THE POOR LAW COMMISSION.

Rut a Poor Law Commission was appointed in 1834-. and as a result of its labors England was saved. The workhouse test was re-established, allowances in aid of wages were abolished, and a central department was set up to suuerintend the whole system. Despite the inveteracy of the abuses, a 45 per cent, reduction in the burden cf pauperism was effected within three years through this reform. In their report the Commissioners lay down as the fundamental principieof legal relief that “the conditionof the pauper ought to be on the whole less eligible than that of the independent laborer”; and they add as a corollary that “all distribution of relief in money or in goods to be spent or consumed by the pauper in his own home is inconsistent with the principle in question.” But in their recommendations and the orders subsequently based upon them they admit an exception to the principle “in all those cases of distress which a’ c of most frequent occurrence, such as sickness, accident, bodily - ' or mental infirmity in themselves and in their families.” That the English returns still show almost three times as many outdoor as indoor able-bodied paupers is due to this exception, which for ua at any rate has this advantage : that it makes available for our learning a large amount of contemporary and accurately-recorded English experience.

OUTDOOR RELIEF.

What are the arguments for and against the State affording outdoor relief of any kind ? The arguments in its favor are that it is less harsh upon the poor, because ic avoids the breaking up of families, and decs not brand the recipient so deeply with the stigma of pauperism ; and that it is economical, because it does not throw the whole cost of maintenance upon the rGieving body and if it were not resorted to, the poor-house a.-commodation would need to be greatly increased. The first of these arguments for the system will appeal to any humane person, but, when fully considered, will be found to cut the other way. The comparative comfort and privacy of the arrangement, which spare the feelings of the deserving poor, at the same time commend it to the undeserving ; and the crowd of undeserving applicants which it attracts in consequence, and the enormous difficulty of discriminating letween the two classes, are what makr a it so liable to abu»e, especially in the hands of a puhuc body, and so apt to become a means of degrading and demoralising rather than uplifting the poor. The number of the undeserving recipients is also the answer to the second argument. Hundreds are relieved in this way who are not reaily in need, and who would not appeal to charity at all if relict were only obtainable inside the poor-hous-. Fxtravag ince and not economy is accordingly promoted by such a system.

THE POOR-LAW COMMISSIONERS ON OUTDOOR IP LIEF.

The first authority which I shall cite in support of these contentions is the report of the Boorl.aw Commissioners (1833), which is a classic on the subject not likely to be superseded : We have dwelt at some length on outdoor relief because it a_ppears_ to be the relief which is now most extensively given, and became it appears to contain in itself the elements of an almost indelinile extension-of an extension, in short, which may ultimately absorb the '.'hole fund out of which it arisen. Among the elements of extension are the constantly diminishing reluctance to claim an apparent benefit, the receipt of which imposes no sacrifice exe tit a sensation of shame quickly obliterated by habit,ovenif notprevented by example; the difficulty often amounting to impossibility on the part of those who administer and award relief of ascertaining whether any and what necessity for it exists, and the existence in many cases of positive motives on their parts to grant it when unnecessary, or themselves to create the necessity. I’roin the preceding evidence it will be seen how zealous must be the agency and how intense the vigilance to prevent fraudulent claims crowding in under such a relief. But it would require still greater vigilance to prevent the bona lide claimants degenerating into impostors, and it is an aphorism amongst the active parish officers that "cases which arc good to-day are bad to-morrow,” unless they' are incessantly watched. A person obtains relief on the ground of sickness; when he has become oipablo of returning to moderate, work he is tempted by the enjoyment of subsistence without labor to conceal bis convalescence, and fraudulently extend the period of relief. When it really the receivers whether the relief shall coaso with the occasion for it, it is too much to expect of their virtue that they shall in any considerable numb or of instances voluntarily forego the pension.

TUB EFFECT’ OP bTOITINO OUTDOOR BELIEF.

So much as to tho eff-. ct of granting outdoor relief; next as to that of refusing it. Has such refusal increased the sufferings of the poor, and lias it filled the workhouses? A remarkabe English case is that of the Bradfield Union, which in 1871 supported 999 outdoor and 259 indoor paupers. By a strict administration the outdoor paupers were reduced to 202 in 1881 and 42 in 1883, while at the same time the inmates of the workhouse, instead of increasing, were reduced to 151 in 1831 and 103 in 1888. Thus in seventeen years, merely by the rigid curtailment of outdoor relief, the total numb.r of paupers fell from 1,258 to 142, or 83 per cent., while the expenditure fell from £6,893 to £1,232, or 81 per cent. As to the.effect upon the people, Mr Bland Garland writes in 18-8 : '■ I can reply with perfect confidence that the condition of the people has much improved—that it never was so good as now, although wages are considerably less than they were in the earlier years of the period mentioned (about 1871-72). They have learnt in a great measure to depend on their own exertions, to provide against a rainy day, to support their aged parents; and the demands on private charity are much less than when they were recipients of miserable pauper dole, or were looking forward to obtain it.” He adds that “he has obtained returns of nearly all the friendly societies within the Union, including even the public-house dubs (the members of which have much decreased in number), and they show that the membership of the friendly societies has increased 145 per cent, since 1871 and that of the doctors’ clubs 152 p?r cent.”

A similar econuuy in the Atcbara Union, spread over a longer pcriod, reduced the number of outdoor paupers from 1,195 in 1884 to 139 in 1890. and the outlay in poor relief from £9,800 in 1887 to £4,200 in 1888.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. America affords equally striking examples. I will cite two, which are especially remarkable, because in each case the district was a densely populated city, and in each case the experiment was tried suddenly and without warning. In Brooklyn (N.Y.I 46,350 persons received outdoor relief in 1877, at a cost of 141,207d01, and 1,371 persons indoor relief. In 1878-79 thore was no outdoor relief given, except coal, yet the number of indoor paupers was only I,3B9—just eighteen more than it was in the previous year. In 1881 (outdoor relief being still withheld) it was 1,171, or 200 less. Dr Seth Low, under whose mayoralty the change was effected, wrote in 1879 :

Many anticipated great and unusual suffering among the poor by consequence. The testimony of the private relief associations, and of many who give much time personally to visiting among the poor, is all to the same effect. The poor have suffered less this winter in Brooklyn than either last year or the winter before. The saving in the interests of morality cannot be expressed in money.

Philadelphia tried the same experiment about the same time. Fays Mr Amos O. Warner, in his work on ‘American Charities’:— The amount distributed in outdoor'relief in 1575, also in 1876, was 82,000d01, and in 1879 66,000d01. The supply of relief was then cut off peremptorily; and, while the secretary of the Society for Organising Charity reports that there was for a time somewhat greater pressure upon private relieving agencies, the pressure soon passed away, and the demand for relief was not greater than it hud been, while the population of the almshouse decreased, even in the face of the increasing population of the city.

Tho same authority cites numerous other American instances to the same effect. “ Selfrespect and independence have been encouraged” as a result of the change is the verdict of a worker in a suburb of Boston, “and the race of paupers within our limits has very nearly disappeared ” And Mr Warner summarises his conclusions from American experience as follows: . f have never heard of any well-authenticated instance where outdoor relief was stopped and where the population of the public charitable institutions subsequently increased. In other words, as administered in the United States, it is found, apparently, that outdoor relief educates more people for the almshouse than it keeps out of it, and that therefore it is neither economical nor kindly.

OUTDOOR RELIEF IN NEW ZEALAND, Such, then, is the verdict of experience apd authority upon this most important question, and there are i easons why it should have a very practical interest for us. The evil of outdoor relief seems to me to have already attained such proportions in this country as to constitute a serious injury to the State, and the evil according to its wont is increasing with an accelerating speed. An analy-is of our charitable aid expenditure for the last few years tells an even more serious tale than that of the steady advance in the totals to which I have already referred, for it shows that In kind as well as in degree the expenditure is becoming increasingly bad. In 1889 the expenditure was almost equally divided between indoor and outdoor relief,' the fkures being; Indoor, £37,562; outdoor £37.955. In 1893 the total expenditure was practically the same, but the indoor maintenance had now fallen to £32,901, while outdoor relief had risen to £43,714. The tendency has continued up to date. For the year just concluded the figures arc: Indoor, £31,421; outdoor, £58,247. Thus, while during the last seven years the indoor expenditure has actually decreased over £6,000. the total i xpenditure has increased by some £14,000 as a lesult of an incr' ase of £20,000, or 53 per cent, in the cost of outdoor relief. Though other causes must be allowed for in estimating the significance of the gross totals of the charitable aid expenditure at different times, I can think of nothing but maladministration toaccount for this variation in the relative proportion in the two branches of this expenditure. Unless all previous experience is being belitd in our case, the figures appear to indicate that we are creating more poverty than we are curing under out present system.

CHARITABLE ADMINISTRATION IN WELLINGTON, Rutting the figures aside, there are other reasons for doubting the efficiency of our charitable aclministiation. We have recently had the advantage of two independent investigations into its operation in this city, both by persons of high character and competence, and in neither case could the report be mistaken for a piiugr rio. The Rev. W. A. Evans had occasion to complain that for some uncxp’ained reason the Wellington B-nevolent Trustees would not allow him the opportunity of studying the working of their institution from within j, and such a refusal to the appointee of the District Charitxble Aid Board certainly seemed at once to put the Trustees into the position of partisans or culpiits rather than faithful and candid servants of the public ; but Mr Evans fortunately had other sources of information open to him, and what they supplied him with enabled him to report on the institution as follows :

THE REV. W. A. EVANS’s REPORT, 1895. There is no thoroughness in its methods, and so the results of Us operations are very disappointing. By thoroughness I mean strict inquiry and investigation into the cases submitted for relief. It is not enough that the applicant bo examined before the Trustees; the home should be visited, and all information as to character, disposition, past history, present surroundings gained as far as possible on the spot, and once the name and address is placed on the books the person should bo often visited so as to render imposition impossible. From tacts that have come under my notice I find that some persons have not been visited for months, some for years. I question very much whether the Trustees could put their hands on those who are recipients of benevolent aid. If they could, then the monthly lists supplied are most misleading. In the appended list for October will be found addresses of persons that have moved away into other parts of the city mouths ago, some of whom I htffe not been able to trace. Were there anything like systematic supervision this would be impossible. This may be a trivial thing in itself, and may be met by the statement that such supervision is unnecessary, inasmuch as all in receipt of charitable aid arc expected to present themselves before the Trustees at stated times. But I submit that even if this were so, yet from lack of a more thorough knowledge of the character and circumstances of those receiving aid the door is thrown open to untold possibilities ot evil. Two cases have been brought under my notice. A. 15. receives 5s a week, hut is also in receipt of .‘sss a week from various sources. Now, if strict supervision were exercised over this case the name would have been struck off the list. C. D. receives 7s fid a week and 4} rations, yet this person spends most of her evenings in dancing classes, and has been seen on the stage in the Opera-house. Intemperance and other vices are sheltered in the shadow of benevolent aid. Now, strict supervision would have made such anomalies impossible. MBS NEILL’S REPORT, 1895. Since Sir Kvons reported Sirs Grace Neill, the assistant-inspector of hospitals and asylums, has examine 1 into the working of our Benevolent Trust, has received very much the same cordial reception from the Trustees as be did, and has arrived at vary much the same conclusions. In a letter to the inspector, dated 10th July, 1835, winch is published on page 32 of his last report, she *ri!ci; I desire to call your att-nf ion to the large and increasing outlay of the Wellington Benevolent Trustees. During last month 17,040 rations were, dispensed ; ids", according to printed return for •lone, the disbursement of cash-rent money, keep of children, transportation, etc.—amounted to over £GO per week. . . . The relief to be granted, its kind, the amount, and the period for which it is to be given, are decided in a sort of haphazard method by members of the Board at their weekly meeting. This is utterly discouraging to the really unhappy and destitute, and most encouraging to brazen-faced beggars of the female sex. . . . ft is heartbreaking to know the straggles and efforts of many in Wellington to “ keep off the hooks of the benevolent” and then to attend on' Tuesday afternoon and see an able-bodied woman get rent money and rations for the asking. Of course the charity-aided woman can wear finer clothes ; she can take in work, or keep lodgers at a cheaper rate than her more self-respecting neighbor, whilst her landlord is lenient, knowing that at any rate a portion of her rent is secure, owing t" the openhaeded' generosity of our Benevolent Trustees when dealing with other people’s money.

INACCURACY OP AUDMHSI’3. 1 1n a subs quent report, dated 12ih April last, she icp.ais Mr Evans's complaint on the very vital matter of the addresses of the recipients of pubiio charity ■— The Inaccuracy of the addresses given in the Wellington monthly list has proved a considerable hindrance to me in my recent Investigations. I may add that tho more doubtful the case the less likely is the address to be correct. A certain proportion of these errors is no doubt due to the nomadic character of the class who get relief, but there are instances where families have left the address given in the February list three, six, and even in one instance, the neigbors told me, twelve months previously, and yet are receiving rent and rations. If the landlord alone receives the cash for rent, bow is it that the change of address is not booked at the office? BENEVOLENT, NOT BENEFICENT.

But we really do not need any expcrtevider.ee to enable us to form a judgment of the methods of the administrators of our city charities. Out of their own mouths, by their own acts and tbs repoitj if their own meetings they stand o.n Icmned. And in what I say I wish it io be distinctly understood that I do not desire for a moment to impugn their motives or intentions, and for all of them of whom I have any knowledge, except their chairman, I entertain a sincere respect. But well-meaning or benevolence is unfortunately a very different thing from well-doing or beneficence, and of all df payments of human activity charitable administration seems to bo the one in which good intentions have most frequently and continuously paved the way to disaster. The fact is that the Trustees are amateurs, with no special qualifications for the task and only a limited amount of time to devote to it, who are attempting to do what could not be successfully undertaken even by a body of experts specially set apart for the work, and assisted by a large staff of detedive —I mean the work of publicly administering outdoor relief among the rapidly changing population of a city of this size without wholesale extravagance and demoralisation.

ENCOURAGING THE DRUNKARD. My first example of their methods is taken from the ‘Evening Post’ report of their last meeting: A young girl attended and asked food for her mother and live brothers and sisters, who, it was stated by a Trustee, were starving. The mother was ill in bed, and the father reported to be dying from the effects of drink. The chairman described the man as a human typo (sic) who brought children into the world without one thought or care for their welfare. Rations were granted.

la it not o’ear that in relieving this particular sort of “ human type ” from the responsibility for its actions the State is giving it direct encouragement? In this particular case the guilty party—with what accuracy I do not know, and possibly the Trustees did not know—was said to be dying from the effects of drink ; but we know that relief of this kind is habitually given where the father and husband is not dying, but is enabled thereby to live op and devote his earnings to diink. In the days of the old poor law it was not an uncommon thing for the publican to attend a vestry meeting in order to vote for an increase of the allowance paid to a pauper who was one of his own customers. In these enlightened days we attain the same result by a more circuitous process, for, by granting outdoor relief to the family of a drunkard while tho drunkard is still at large, the State is indirectly franking his drink bill at tho publichouse. It does not seem to me too much to stipulate that, as a condition precedent to hia family obtaining outdoor relief, the drunkard himself should be locked up. The strongest supporters of the home argument for this form of relief will hardly urge that anything is gained by compelling or allowing the presence of an habitual drunkard in the homo of a family whom he cannot or will not maintain. A BAD ATTACK OP “TYPHOID.”

A case which presents analogous but far worse features is No. 22 in Mrs Neill’s report of 12 - -h April last: Man, wife, and eight children; five can work, three at school. For years this family has been largely helped out of public funds, Two eldest sons regularly work as tinsmiths; two girls old enough to work; one boy (14) just gone to work. This family change their quarters frequently—everywhere the same tale of dissipation and drink.

lu their official reply (‘ Evening Post,’ 27th May) the Trustees say that “ typhoid fever ” was the original cause; of this family receiving assistance; but as this was at least six or seven years ago, the fact : that they “have never recovered their previous state of health” is put forward as the chief reason for its continuance. Notwithstanding that the “ family utterly deny auegations of drink and dissipation” (which, of course, is quite enough for the Trustees), the form of “typhoid" from which they .have recently been suffering appears to bo that which when it afflicts members of Parliament during session is termed "influenza,” and for which a prohibitory law is the only sure remedy, ;• “If any would not work, neither should he eat ” was the old rule, but in their unexaoting benevolence the Trustees decree that he shall eat and drink too, 1 heir naive remark that the husband and wife “have never recovered their previous state of health ” is made without a suspicion that .this may really be the result of the doles which Jo is supposed to justify. The alarmingly prolonged convalescence of these typhoid patients is probably a confirmation of the statement which I have already quoted from the Poor Law Commissioners as to the irresistible inducements which liberal sick-pay offers to the recipients to continue sick. “We can have as many tramps as we will pay for,” says an American authority; and no doubt as many invalids too.

A DESERVING CASE. Eut the most deplorable and conclusive proof of the Trustees’ innocence of the very rudiments of their business is afforded by c*se No. 19 in Mrs Neill’s report. The Trustees’ defence of their treatment of this case is more damning than any hostile criticism. I quote from their official reply, the first sentence, containing Mrs Neill’s summary of the facts, the other two the Trustees’ justification: -

A man, wife, eleven children, three at work; 5s and six rations. Man weak in the head ; family constantly increasing. Case well known as deserving.

“ Man. weak in the head ” 1 There are other persons concerned in this case who are weak in the head besides this prolific pauper, and those are the administrators who, at the public expense, are putting-a premium upon the proauction of his weaklings. “ Case well known to be deserving ” ! The merits of the hundreds of taxpayers who have been restrained by selfrespect and self-control from allowing their families to become a burden to the State are entirely overlooked by the Trustees in their sympathy for this “deserving” combination of imbecility and incontinence. When Mr Seddon declared that there was not a single pauper in the colony, is it possible that he was thinking that each of them was married and had eleven children ? v

WORSE TUAN THE OLD I‘OOB LAW. Ifc has been pointed out that one great advantage of the poorhouse is a feature which it shares with the Kingdom of Heaven—viz , that it allows neither marrying nor giving in mariiage._ Outdoor relief cannot impose this restriction—it has always great difficulty in preventing the propagation of pauperism from generation to_ generation, and when administered as in this case it becomes a direct incitement to such propagation. Even the old English poor law was lea- outrageous. Under that law the system of “eighteen-penny children ” offered an inducement to the pauper to marry and have a family, the sum of Is 6d which was allowed him for each child being proportionately more liberal than the adult allowance. But even in those dark days the limit was put at seven children; whereas in this enlightened age, in the colony which boasts to lead the world, and in the city which boasts to lead the colony, we find the administrators of public charity complacently regarding a pauper’s paternity of a family of eleven as a sign of merit, and looking forward with a kind of grandmotherly interest to the time when the arrival of Nos. 12, 13, and we know not how many more, will make fresh demands upon their own sympathy and the taxpayers’ pockets. The comic aspect of the case must not blind ua to its disgraceful nature, and the disgrace is ours as long as we allow such administration to continue.

WIGS AND UMBRELLAS. [When delivering this address I here inserted a compliment to the Trustees upon showing in some respects an advance on the administration of a century ago, I pointed out that whereas about that time the contractors for the supply of a workhouse iu Kent were required “to provide wigs for such as wear them or require them,” it was on record that tho Benevolent Trustees of Wellington had recently refused an application for an umbrella. Unfortunately, I was informed shortly afterwards by one of my audienci that the record (which was the ‘Evening Post repoit) was wrong—the woman who applied for the umbrella had got it. “lam that identical woman.” she said, and she produced that identical umbrella! My compliment must therefore be withdrawn. But it still remains to be seen, whether, under suitable c'.roumstancFS, the Trustees could bo induced to go as far as their Kentish predecessors, in justice to whom it should, however, be remembered that wigs were not then the rarity which the’’ are now. In view of the change of fashion, a briefless barrister with a “weak head ” and a large end “ constantly increasing ” family would be the best person to try the experiment upon our Benevolent Trustees] THE TRUSTEES’ SHORTCOMINGS SUMMARISED. AVithout going into further detail, 1 think it will be admitted that all the following six points, which I take as tho most important of tho defects ot the English outdoor relief system, a i enumerated by the Kev. T. AV. Fowle in his work on ‘The Poor Law,’ are abundantly exemplified in tho mel hods of our Benevolent Trustees : -

L Uncertainty of the decisions, arising from vacillation and fluctuating attendance, end resulting in a great encouragement to importunity. _ 2 Visits fttid revision of lists irregular, (C note with pleasure that the Trustees have recently appointed an cffio al lady visitor. From tho attack made upon her inquisitorial methods by the ‘ New Zealand Times ’ I infer that she is doing a much needed work in a businesslike way.) 3. Laxity in requiring personal attendance of applicants, wives being commonly sent by husbands.

{This very matter arose at the Trustees’ last meeting. “ The secretary said the women were always told they must bring their husbands with them, but the latter never came.” The Jaws of the Tiustecs are not like those of the Modes and Persians. The very persons at whom they are aimed can alter them, disregard thtm, defy them, and secure the full benefits of a repeal without oven attending to demand it.) 4. Deserted wives treated with lax indnlgcncy, and fraud and collusion very inadequately guarded against. 5. Paupers allowed to marry j aupers and breed paupers. 6. Relations not made to help. (As to this fee cas > 5 (c) in the Trustees’ reply to Mrs Neill’s report.)

THE TRUSTEES SELF-CONDEMNED. Every one of these defects is so constantly and so glaringly_ illustrated in the outdoor relief system of this city that we need not go far to seek for the chief cause of the rapid growth pf pauperism which shames our general prosperity. The astounding laxity of our charitable administration is quite enough to account for it. It is astonishing to find the arch-offenders frankly recognising themselves as the source of the mischief, yet with an Oriental fatalism calmly proceeding in their evil work along the same old lines,' Ihe following is from a discussion at a meeting of the Benevolent Trustees, as reported in the ‘ New Zealand Times ’ of July 28 “ I believe it would be a good thing to shut up this institution for three months,” responded the first speaker. ... This provoked a volley of Hear, hears." “In fact,” interpolated the Chairman, 1 I don’t think it would be a bad thing to shut it up altogether.” Move “Hear, bears. ' Well, it’s the only way you will stem this tide of pauperism. I’m convinced of that.” responded the first speaker.

These valiant speeches are immediately followed up by the grant of relief, in violation of one of their own rules already mentioned, to the family of a man who declined to apply in person.

NOT A TiDK BUT A TAP. But let us be grateful for the words nevertheless, for they point to the true remedy. The institution as a public dispensary of outdoor relief should be closed altogether. Ido not much care for the tidal metaphor, which is misleading unless we conceive the Trustees as Canutes armed with real power to stay it. It is not a case of stemming the tide, but of turning off a tap. The rising flood of pauperism flows directly from the tap of thoughtlesslyadmistered outdoor relief, which the Legislature should turn off, as the administrators decline to do so. If contributions from the public funds, local or colonial, to this kind of relief were made illegal, the English and American instances which I . have cited justify us in expecting^that the £B.OOO so spent in this city last year, and the £58,000 spent in the colony, would in future be saved to us altogether, while at the same time a potent cause of poverty and demoralisation would be swept away. Cases of genuine and deserving distress, demanding assistance outside the poorhouse, would unfortunately still subsist, and these would be treated by the private charity which our public system has to a large extent driven out of the field. In private hands charity can be more discriminating, yet at the same time more thorough and more considerate than when administered, by a public body; and private charity would be at once organised to do the work for which our public incompetence has been sufficiently shown.

THE CONSOLIDATED FUND. Though the subject of charitable aid has attracted a good deal of attention lately, the only scheme ot reform which has been much discussed is the proposal to relieve local bodies altogether from their liability in the matter, and

to make the whole expense a charge upon the Consolidated Fund, which at present bears only half; 'Jhe demand is made at the : instance-of the ratepayer, .who urges that rates fall "upon land only,, and that l it. Is not fair to confine a general burden, or, more precisely, half of a general burden, to one species of property. ■ A discussion of the general principles of taxation would be beyond the seopo of this paper, but I may point out in passing that rates were originally instituted in England for, the relief of the poor, and are still known In the country districts as the “poor rate, ’ though now imposed for general purposes ; and that originally the rate was a tax upon all forms of property, but from convenience, of assessment and ‘pofieotion land-haa come to bear the whole burden. Not only rates bat the whole system of English local government originated in the provision for pioor relief. Whatever;,may-beriho; defect of the .English, rating system, as inherited by us and transplanted to this colony, it has for our present purpose two cardinal merits-that it raises its revenue by direct taxation, and that it is based upon the principle of local responsibility and local control. To transfer the chargo for charitable aid to the Consolidated Fund would be to substitute indirect for direct taxation, and a general and central administration for local administration.

CHARITABLE AID IN POLITICS. Both these changes would, iu my opinion, be wrong m principle, and the latter would be especially disastrous at a time when our central government has for years maintained a degree of corruption from which our local government is absolutely free. The salaries of the officers of women's liberal leagues are already paid in some cases out of th) Consolidated Fund through their coirnptappointraentasvisitorsof lunaticasylums. It is appalling to think of the mischief that would be done if these recipients of pub'io charity were also made the dispensers of public chanty as the official guardians of the poor. The principle of charitable aid has been carried quite far enough into politics already. When the electors send a man to Parliament, not because bo is fit to be there, but because he is fit for nothing else, they are confusing politics with charitable aid; they are helping out of the Consolidated Fund a man for whom, if necessary, they should Have provided outdoor relief in some other and more direct fashion. When a Ministry establishes a Private Benefit Societies’ Commission at the expense of the public, but for the private benefit of the Commissioners, there is again a confusion of politics audoharitable aid. j ndeed, this mistake is %o habitual with the present Government that the country would be seriously alarmed if all the recipients of charitable. aid, in the form of corrupt patronage, duly figured as paupers in our Bine Books. Nowhere could this corruption find a mote promising field than in the true sphere of charitable aid. Hie delicacy and difficulty of the work are such that, as wo have seen, failure awaits even the best intentions; and when the_ intentions would often be bad, when tue administrator might be some blind or dishonest political partisan, and the applicants for relief would all have votes, the result would obviously be to multiply the present extravagance and demoralisation a hundredfold. On the eve of an election the position of political dispenser of charitable aid might be worth a scat in any constituency. Under present conditions, then; the central administration of outdoor relief-is to be condemned, because it would be corrupt; and under any conditions it is to be condemned, because it would be central.

CENTRALISM IN ENGLAND. There is one respect, however, in which greater centralisation would be an advantage. The English system rests, as I have taid, upon local administration, but the effect of the Poor Law Commission resulted iu a central supervision of a very minute and searching character. From first to last (says Mr Fowle) the Poor Law has been exactly what the Poor Law Board has made it, and there has been no relaxation of the absolute control which the Board has exercised over every detail of administration. A very effective instrument of control is to be found in the almost innumerable forms or schedules according to whic i not only are all returns to be made, but ad the business ot relief to be transacted. Tt is not possible, indeed, to move a single step without using them. Those relating to the smallest matters that have come under my notice arc instructions how to make tea and rice nud- • dings. , i

MORE POWER POR OUR CENTRAL DEPARTMENT, Such Ppprearive minuteness is at the opposite pole to our own slap dash system. In his last report the Inspector iff Hospitals and Charitable Institutions states that “the department has i?suei forms to be filled up showing (1) chief causes of poverty in cases relieved, (2) the decisions in oases of applicant fer relief (whether continuous, temporary, outdoor, indoor, etc.), atd 13) the number of rations given, their value, and the amount given directly in cash and he pathetically adds that “the local charitable aid bodies have in no instance found themselves able to give tho information desired by the department.” It would surely be wise to increase the power of the dcpaitment so as to enable it to introduce more order and uniformity into the local administration, and at ™yr*}o to cornel the keeping of accurate statistical information as to the cases relieved. It would not he difficult to map cu‘, a middle course between the “t<a and rice pudding” regulations of the English Board and tho empty schedules of Dr MacGregor’s last report.

BUT MAINTAIN THE LOCAL PRINCIPLE. But with thi-t one exception I think that the local principle should be jealously guarded, the areas of administration rather diminished than increased, and local responsibility and control made more direct and real. At present the groat size of the districts, which involves the ino,UHon m each of a number of local bodies without community of interest or organic connection, weakens the sense of responsibility and makes control indirect and ilkuory. There arc over 550 local bin its in the colony as against twenty-eight charitable aid districts. A further barrier to effective control is the division between the assessing body and the distributing body already referred to. The Local <. overnment Bill of 1895 proposed to reduce the nuraber of local bodies by mo:e than three-quarters, and to make each of those remaining t he supremo charitable aid authority within ita own boundaries, This would mean diminishing the average size or the charitable aid districts bv about 80 per cent, and giving the ratepayer a'direot and effective intuit in the administration without the intervention of one or more composite and cumbrous bodies to deaden his responsibility and tie his hands. I am satisfied that it is in this direction, an 1 not to the Consolidated Fund, that we should look for reform. “More life and fuller in the local administration, and not its total destni’.tion, is what we want. Dr MacGregor has both history and principle on his side when he urges, in that able series of reports which our legislators apparently have not the time to read, that the questions of local government and charitable aid are closely and essentially connected, and that a genuine measure of home rale, which would remove the giaring.anomuiies and imperfections of the one, would go a long way towards settling the other.

NO SUBSIDY TO OUTDOOR RELIEF. Dr MacGregor has another valuable suggestion forquiokening the ratepayer’sintercst iu economy and turning it in the right direction—viz., that the State subsidy to outdoor relief should cease, and the expense of it be thrown altogether on the rates. It is clear that if the contribution from the Consolidated Fund were allocated to indoor maintenance, and the ratepayer had to bear the whole burden of outdoor relief, he would have a powerful inducement to retrenchment in that class of expenditure which, as we have seen, is most degrading in its effects, and is endowed with a capacity for almost indefinite extension. The State would at the same time be a gamer by the change. In 1895-96 the subsidy to charitable aid was £51,212, while the whole cost of indoor maintenance only amounted to £34,469, which means that the Consolidated Fund would have been saved some £17,000 if it had had the indoor expenditure only to bear. It is certain that this saving would not have represented an equivalent addition to the burden of the ratepayers if the matter of outdoor relief had been entirely under their control. The principle has been recognised by the Imperial Parliament since 1870, when Mr Goschen’s Metropolitan Poor Amendment Act made the expenses of the London woikhouses a charge upon a common fund for the whole metropolis, while leaving each union to provide for its own outdoor paupers at its own cost. It would be wise to follow this good example. To make the ratepayer directly liable for the whole cost of outdoor relief, and then to put the administration of it into his hands, would be the next best thing to abolishing it altogether, and would certainly lead to its curtailment within very narrow limits.

PROGRESS AND PAUPERISM. “To make benevolence scientific, ” says Arnold Toyhhee. “ is the great problem of the present age.” If this is so, it is time that a colony which is always prating of progress should do something to remedy the capiicions, haphazard, and blundering fashion in which its public benevolence is dispersed. “The Poor Law guardians,” says another high authority (the Hon. G. C. Brodiick), “have greater power over character than any other body of men.” If this is so, then we, should see that the trustees of this enormous power do not systematically use it to the deterioration of character after their present fashion. Wo boast of social progress and Took forward to a social Utopia. Our. statesmen are valiant in propounding schemes for the protection of the poor by the spoliation of the rich, and by the exclusion of foreign paupers and other undesirable immigrants. I trust,that we may see in time that I to rob the rich, even with a ring fence round the colony, will not abolish panperismaa long as we continue to breed it within our own borders in our present infatuated style. I trust that we may see in time that not bursting up but levelling up is the true way to Utopia, and that

one of our. firtt stops should bo to put a stop to the impoverishment and degradation of our reorle .whJoh- at present, is carried out in the name of chanty and under the sanction of the law,

Year. Population of Colon}-, excluding Maoris. Indoor. Outdoor. Total Charitable Aid V £ £ 1877-78 408,618 17,768 878-79 432,519 19,948 '879-80 463,729 15.472 880-81 484,864 21.280 881-82 509,910 23,735 1882-83 517,707 •26,812 1SS3-84 540.677 £6,817 1884-85 564,304 34,393 1885-88 575,226 32.183 1888-89 607,380 28.333 40,395 68,728 1889-90 616,052 37,562 37,935 75 517 1890-91 f)25,5*S 32.648 , 41,897 74,545 1891-92 634,058 29,081 41,820 70,901 1892-93 650,433 34,371 42,131 76,493 1893-94 672,265 32,901 43,715 76,616 1894-95 686,128 34,324 52,ill lS95-9fl 698,706 34,470 72,066 106,536 1896-97 712,000 ? 31,421 58,247 89,668

Year. Relief, Indoor. Relief, Outdoor. Salaries etc. | 1889-90 III v; 1891-95 1893-96 1896-97 £ 37)1 339 430 1,263 1,(78 1,694 1,511 £ 4,110 4,115 4,747 5,031 4,278 6,529 8.310 8,079 £ \ £ 299 ' 4,409 258 ; 4,727 272 ; 5,35!) 321 6,838 (a) 471 6,013 477 10,137 482 10,511 (i!) 565 10,136

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CHARITABLE AID, Issue 10441, 9 October 1897, Supplement

Word Count
8,814

CHARITABLE AID Issue 10441, 9 October 1897, Supplement

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