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THE SOLUTION OF THE CHARITABLE AID QUESTION.

The following paper, by Mr Horace F. Basting?, was read at the recent Charitable Aid Conference in Wellington : Any attempt to solve the charitable aid question must be based upon the principle that the able-bodied poor, at least, should be placed in a position to earn their own livelihood instead of being allowed to live upon charity. In no countries in the world has this principle been so successfully applied as in Germany and Holland; and what tho3e countries have done can be accomplished with even a greater measure of success by New Zealand if the question is fairly faced. Now, it seems to me that the most reasonable way to set about dealing with the question is to resolve to adopt a fchemo based upon what is best in the Dutch and German labor colonies. In Germany twentysix colonies have been established for the benefit of the unemployed; and they are all said to be io good working order. The majority of them are also to some extent self-supporting, a few of them being entirely so. Those that are not quite self-supporting are subsidised by the provinces in which they are situated, and the total sum received a few years ago by the whole of the colonies in the way of subsidy only amounted to £30,000. This sum, however, does not represent the total amount expended in charitable aid in Germany, as there are other agencies for dealing with the unemployed besides labor colonies. In addition to these there are something like 2,000 "relief stations," where men looking for work remain for a short time, and receive relief in the form of food and shelter in return for work done. By means of these stations a man can go all through Germany looking for work without a penny in his pocket until regular work is found. These stations cost the country about £75,000 per annum. If this sum is added to the £30,000 which it costs to subsidise the labor colonies, we get a total of £105,000, which might be taken as the sum expended in Germany in public charity. But here is a more significant fact: Although Germany has a population of about fifty millions she does not pay much more for the relief of her poor than New Zealand does with a population of little more than half a million, the expenditure in Germany amounting, as I have already said, to about £105,000 par annum, while last year we paid nearly £90,000. What stronger evidence could be adduced in favor of the adoption by this colony of a scheme somewhat similar to that in existence in Germany for the relief of the poor ? But, apart from the financial aspect of the question, abundant testimony has been given by differens competent authorities a3 to the good work done by TIIE GERMAN LABOR COLONIES.

la IS9O the colonies were visited by the Eirl of Meath, who subsequently wrote an interesting account of them, which appeared in the ' Nineteenth Century.' His lordship, after showing what good had been accomplished by the establishment of the German system of dealing with the unemployed, concluded his article as follows : "The rapidity with which labor colonies have spread through Germany shows that public opinion in that country is persuaded that these institutions have proved themselves to be effective sieves by means of which the honest, industrious man—driven by misfortune to seek work—can be distinguished and separated from the idle, vicious vagabond who shun 3 all labor, lives upon the ignorance and sof t-heartedness of society, and who, by constant fraud and deception, hardens the heart of the public, closes its purse, and is the enemy of both rich and poor. The public conscience is so thoroughly - alive to its duties towards these unfortnate classes that we may rest assured this particular method of dealing with them, which ha 9' proved so successful in Germany, will not continue to te much loDger neglected in this country " that is in England. Further testimony to the good done by the German labor colonies is also given by M. Georges Barry, who was deputed by the Paris Municipal Council to visit and report upon them. So warmly did M. Berry approve of what the Germans had accomplished that he recommended the body with which he was connected not exactly to copy their friends in the neighboring country, but to " go and do likewise." According to the Frenchman, one of the German colonies—viz , Magdeburg, which U both industrial and agricultural—was started in 188S, and from the second year of its existence it has paid its way, even with a surplus—the result, chiefly, of market gardening. Professor Peabody, of the Harvard University, also visited the German colonies a few year 3 ago, and in the ' Forum ' of February, 1892, he published an article giving a description of them. " The German labor colonies," he said, " are refuges where the man who wants work and cannot find it may go for any period up to two years, and be sure at least cf self-support." In re- . ferring to the oldest-established of the colonies—viz., Wilhelmsdorf—he observed : "As one travels along the high road which leads to the colony he comes into a region which at first sight appears to be an absolutely sterile waste. It is a great plain of sand, over which the northern ocean once flowed, and which has remained ever since almost uncultivated. ... A part of this dreary region has been by degrees transformed by „the labor colony into a garden. The home has room for 2,000 colonists, and between August, 1888, when it was first opened, and January, IS9O, it has received 5,G37 colonists, and provided 476,176 days' labor. Of the total number only 275 have either run away or been dismissed for misconduct; 2,678 have left during those years because they had obtained work for themselves or had been provided for it through the agents of the colony. . . . The total cost of maintenance at Wilhelmsdorf in 1889 was about 15,000d01, and the earnings about half that sum." As showing the benefit that has been derived from the establishment of thi3 particular colony Professor Peabody says: "Ten years ago, it is estimated, in Westphalia alone, the province in which Wilhelmsdorf stands, 40,000 were professional tramps, and theirsupport cost the community not less than 25 cents a day, or an annual amount-of 300,000 dollars." The writer further states that one-fifth of the colonists in the German colonies have been restored to regular industry, and but onetwentieth have abused their privileges to the point of dismissal. "It maybe reasonably assumed from these figures that the colonies sent back at least one-half of their constituency better able to take their places as men in a working world." While suggesting various ways in which the German colony system might be improved Professor Peabody Bays: " The German work fairly establishes the colony plan as the best way now proposed for dealing with the drifting unemployed." But the most complete account of the German labor colonies is given by Mias Julie Sutter in a work entitled 'A Colony of Mercy,' which was published in 1893. In that work the '* authoress Bays.that ten years ago there were about 150,000 vagrants in Germany. Now, " not only have the vagabonds largely disappeared, but public crime also has diminished, some of the reports say about 30 per cent. ! Even the houses of correction working, so to Bpeak, hand in hand with the colony, are lees needed. There are about twenty of these about the country. In 1885 they counted 23,000 inmates; in 1890 13,000." This statement hasa most important bearing upon the introduction of any similar scheme into this colony. It has often been said that if we were to establish labor colonies . here we would be "flooded" with loafer 3 from all the other colonies. The experience of Germany, however, shows that just the contrary of that would be the effect. And . the reason is obvious : If labor colonies were established, those who were able to work aud would not do so could have no claim upon the community. Both public and private charity being denied them, they would naturally " seek fresh fields and pastures new." Now let me say something with regard to

WIIAT IS BEING DONE IN HOLLAND

for the relit f cf the poor. An interesting account of the labor colonies there is given by t,ho. Rev. H. V. Mills in his book on • Poverty iui'l the State,' which is one of the mot* vx!liable works published dealing with "the unemployed question. The principal features of the Dutch method of poor relief a-e explained by Mr Mills to be as follow ; —Them is first the relief of the poor at Fr.i'Uriksoprd a private philanthrophio organisation which consists of an agri-

cultural colony extending no less than sixteen miles from extremity to extremity. Here the poor are received voluntarily. There is next the relief of the poor at the " beggar colonies" of Veenhuizen and Ommersohans, where idle beggars are sent cotnpolsorily by magistrates. In the third place there are almshouses in the Dutch towns for the aged and for children who have been deserted by their parents. Frederiksoord is described by Mr Mills as being a paradise in the middle of a wilderness. It was founded in 1818 by General Van Den Boach. The estate comprises no less than 5,000 acres of land. "There are six large model farms, which find employment for ninety laborers and a part of their families; and there are 224 small farms, each of which not only supports a family but which contributes, in addition, an annual sum, by way of rent, towards the maintenance of the new arrivals and the infirm. There have also been erected two Protestant churches, with dwellings for the ministers ; one Roman Catholic church, with a dwelling for the priest; and a Jewiah synagogue, with a dwelling for the teacher. There are also five schools for the education of the children, each capable of holding about a hundred and twenty scholars. . . The average population during the last ten years ha 3 been 1,800 persons, divided into ninety families of laborers, 224 families of independent farmers, and 120 orphans and aged, boarded by the different families.

. . . 224 families of "free farmers," amounting to a population of nearly 1,400, are free and self-supporting, and " able to pay rent " As regards the financial aspect of the "beggar colonies" before referred to, Mr Mills says the whole of the establishments at Veenhuizan and Ommerschans cost the Government about £30,000 a-year. "There are 3,000 men and women to keep, many of whom are too old to work, many of whom are too ill. Out of this sum of money, therefore, hospitals are maintained, the wages of officers and soldiers are paid, books are puchased for the free library, and Catholic and Protestant clergymen are maintained on the estate. ... If only the Dutch beggars were allowed to utilise good machinery, so as to increase the efficiency of the laborer—to introduce the threshing machine, the windmill, and the power-loom—-and so increase the value of the week's work to the extent of an additional 3s 8d per head of the workers, the beggar colonies of Holland would be entirely self-supporting, notwithstanding their hospitals, their aged, and their soldiers." A great deal more might be said with regard to both the German and Dutch labor colonies, but 1 have already eaid sufficient to show that it would be a great advantage to us to establish somewhat similar colonies here. What is wanted is

A COMPREHENSIVE SCHEME that will admit of indefinite expansion to meet the growing requirements of the colony. In 1592 I attempted to devise such a scheme, the essential features of which I might briefly outline: I proposed, in the first place, that a number of industrial settlements should be established in different parts of the colony, starting with a farm as a basis, and gradually introducing various kinds of industries aa the population of the settlements increased. The scheme was to be carried out in four different stages. The class known as the able-bodied unemployed were, in the first instance, to be placed on the settlements, and when they had been there a few years the recipients of outdoor relief were to be transferred gradually to the settlements. Then, if the original settlements proved successful, new ones were to be established which would take in industrial school children, and, perhaps, some of the members of the older settlements. Then the fourth stage of the scheme was to be initiated ; and the inmates of benevolent institutions who were capable of doing work of a light character were to be gradually transferred to the older settlements, those who were quite incapable of work being allowed to remain in the institutions of the colony as at present. The whole of the settlements were to be under the management of capable meD, and under the control of the Minister of Labor. It would, however, not affect the principle of the scheme if the settlements were under the control of municipalities or bourda specially appointed for the purpose. Then it was contemplated that the settlements should eventually bo conducted on co-operative principles, but it was pointed out that it would rot be possible to adopt such principles in the early stages of the scheme. It was further proj.o;ed that the present system of charitable aid should remain in operation as long as might be found necessary, so as to provide for the maintenance of persons",- who could not be dealt with under the new scheme. The adoption of 9uch a scheme would not only have a tendency to stamp out pauperism, but would also have the effect of gradually decreasing the cost of charitable aid, which under the present system must inevitably increase year by year despite the most careful administration. Perhaps the scheme would be rendered more complete if provision were also made for settlements somewhat like the Dutch "beggar colonies," where loafers could be sent to work under discipline; but I hardly think such a thing would be necessary in New Zealand. That, however, is an extension of .the scheme which might be adopted at any time if required. Special settlements might also eventually be established for the benefit of the best of the settlers on the originally-formed settlements. The latest addition to the labor colonv scheme in Germany is a colony of this kind. The Heimath Colonie, near' Bremerhaven, says Miss Julie Sutter, receives selected cases from all the other colonies—"men who by industry and good behaviour have proved their claim to further help. These are to be settled on little plots of land, having to work their own way into possession, their labor being the purchase money." The establishment of settlements of this kind in New Zealand would only be a further expansion of the scheme I have proposed. In attempting to carry out such a scheme care should be taken to see that the conditions are as favorable as possible. It is necessary to point this out, as a number of settlements were started in the neighboring colonies for the benefit of the unemployed which were fordoomed to failure, owing to the unfavorable conditions under which they were sought to be established. Having followed the history of those settlements very closely, I am well aware of the causes of their failure; bub many people who are unacquainted with the circumstances under which they came to grief rashly concluded that all attempts to deal with the unemployed after the manner I have suggested must inevitably fail. Hundreds of failures under bad conditions do not, however, prove the impossibility of achieving success under favorable conditions; and what ha 3 heon doDe in Germany and Holland for the relief of the unemployed Bhows conclusively that success is possible if care is only taken to see that the right conditions are obtained and operations are commenced and carried on on a proper basis.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18971106.2.38.28

Bibliographic details

THE SOLUTION OF THE CHARITABLE AID QUESTION., Issue 10464, 6 November 1897, Supplement

Word Count
2,674

THE SOLUTION OF THE CHARITABLE AID QUESTION. Issue 10464, 6 November 1897, Supplement

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