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. THE PAUPER POOR AT SWANSEA,…

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THE PAUPER POOR AT SWANSEA, The demands upon the payers of poor rates are increasing every year at Swansea, and the increase is out of proportion to the growth [ of population, or to the destitution arising from trade depression. It would be substan- tially correct to affirm that the increase is principally due to the spirit in which applica- tions for relief are treated. Fifty years ago the administration of the poor laws in this country was generally discreditable to humanity. It invited and practically col- lapsed under the attacks of writers like Dickens. George Eliot, and Kingsley, who in varied keynotes preached the doctrine of the duty of the rich to the poor. In conse- quence. chiefly of the influence of the litera- ture of the period contributing to the growth of a humanitarian spirit, no man nowadays is encouraged to publicly stand for severely economical views in relation to the poor. On the contraiy, old age pensions are in sight, and the average guardian, dependent for his seat upon a popular vote, is less affected by the reproach of being extravagant than that of being parsimonious in his treatment of the pauper poor- The disappearance of the ex- officio Guardians, who were independent of Demos, has aggravated the tendency to be sympathetic always to the applicant for re- lief, and to forget the hundreds of ratepayers who may be really worse off than the person seeking the dole. In Swansea this tendency in recent years has been most pronounced. and it is practically manifested in a steadily rising poor rate. Each annual estimate dis- closes the same symptom of inflation. Next year it is estimated that the expediture upon outdoor relief will be at least £500 more than during last year, when the outlay was the largest on record. What accentuates the sense of dissatisfaction aroused by this au- tomatic rise in the absence of any exceptional depression in trade, is the knowledge that among the recipients there are scores, if not hundreds, wholly undeserving of help, but who cannot be detected because of the inef- fective character of the means available. The Guardians are dependent largely upon the information furnished by the relieving officers, each of whom has a large district and hundreds of cases. The greater part of their time is taken up with routine duties leay- ing little leisure for thoroughly investigating special cases. Furthermore, the men are well known, and the class. from which infor- mation might be drawn have, as a rule, a strong prejudice against relieving officers. The truth is imperfectly realised, or not real- ised at all, that everybody contributing di- rectly or indirectly to the rates, has a personal interest in weeding out imposters. But so predisposed are the public generally to take the side of the weak, against the presumably strong, that a ratepayers known to be vol- unteering information to the relieving officers would, in most localities, suffer in the esteem of his neighbours. The consequence is that undeserving people swarm in the pauper list, and it is the most difficult and unpleasant task to remove them from it. Either there must be a drastic change in the system of dealing with poor law cases, chiefly in the direction of a more effective supervision, or the poor rate will continue to ascend. In some coun- tries the work is entrusted, not to elected Guardians, but to civil servants possessed of special qualifications. Change may proceed in this country towards an approximation to the Continental systems. At any rate there is urgent need of reform, as much in the in- terest of the deserving poor. whose allowance might be appreciably increased in conse- quence, as in the interests of the ratepayers. The existing arrangements are unquestion- ably unsatisfactory, as most of those engaged in the work must admit.

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