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MERTHYR POLICE COURT.

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--.--'_n MERTHYR POOR LAW…

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-n MERTHYR POOR LAW ADMINISTRATION. "LAX IN THE EXTREME." There are some scathing comments on Mer- thyr Poor Law Union methods in Appendix Volume XVIII. of the reports of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and Relief of Distress, which was published on Saturday night. The report deals chiefly with the con- dition of the children in receipt of the various forms of poor law relief in England and Wales. The inquiry into the condition of children whose parents are in receipt of outdoor relief was begun in December, 1906, when Miss Phl- lips made investigations into the condition of the children of widows in receipt of out-rclief in the Union of Derby under the supervision of Mrs. Sidney Webb. In March, 1907, similar inquiries were begun by Miss Longman in the Union of Paddington. On May 6th, 1907, at the request of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and Relief of Distress, Miss Ethel Williams took over the inquiry. Miss Longman and Miss Phillips continued to work with her, and Mrs. Sidney Webb generously handed over all the material which had been collected up to that date. The inquiry was continued on the same lines on which it had been begun, with the addition of a more thorough investigation of the physical condition and development of the children. Amongst the Unions dealt with was Merthyr Tydfil. The total number of children (i.e., persons under 16) in receipt of poor law relief in England and Wales on January 1st, 1907, was 234.004 exclusive of a small number re- lieved in the casual wards. The total has va- ried little in the course of the last 25 years, never exceeding 270,000 and never less than 200,000. It was slightly lower in 1907 than in the two preceding years. Of these children the insane, who numbered 2,086, are for the present purpose ignored. They are. however, a class which is steadily increasing, and of which there is little statistical information. Of the 2,080 more than one-third belong to the Metropolis. Those in workhouses are not diminishing in number, having remained between 21,000 and 22,000 for some years. Of these, 565 children of school age are still being taught in schools within the workhouse, the remainder (of school age) being sent to public elementary schools. Those in Poor Law schools have for the last fow years remained nearly stationary at be- tween 12,000 and 13,000. Those in cottage homes and scattered homes are steadily grow- ing in number, having increased by 25 per cent, in the last three years. The number plac- ed in industrial and training homes is increas- ing very slowly. Among the chief causes which brought about the economic downfall of the families dependent on outdoor relief is acute illness, and particu- larly phthisis. The families relieved on ac- count of the desertion of the fathers form a very difficult problem. They are only seven per cent. of the whole. Most Boards have a rule that out-relief shall not be given in these cases, but in all Unions this rule seems to' be occasionally broken. In Merthyr and New- castle the proportion was highest. In Mcri-r. it was allowed by one of the officials that, t system encouraged desertions. These ssenv specially to occur about the time of the wit; confinement, and were temporary in char.ic^<\ and there was ground for suspicion that :-Ï1? sometimes knew where her husband was, and that had out-relief been withheld he would have returned home. MERTHYR METHODS LAX. In Merthyr Tydfil (says the report) much out- relief is given in comparatively large sums, and very freely The whole administration is lax in the extreme, and the character of the recipients and their homes, on the whole, vc-r.v low. As to the methods of oat-relief, the rt- I port says:—On the whole it is, perhaps, the case that "strict" Unions are more apt to give in money only and lax Unions in kind. St. George's Hanover-square and West Derby may be quoted as bearing out this rule. On the other hand, in Merthyr. a very loosely ad- ministered' Union, to give food and not money is exceedingly rare At Merthyr the conditions among boarded- out children were not very satisfactory, at least amongst the 41 children boarded-out by the Guardians. These children seem to be wholly under the ordinary out-relief admin is- tration, and the system partakes more of the nature of out-relief to the foster-parents, in re- spect of the children, than of ordinary boarding- out. Tho foster-parents are usually relatives or family friends, who have often taken tho child without any view to a boarding-out al- lowance, which they have only applied for long afterwards, and they would keep the child, even were the allowance withdrawn. It is thus diffi. cult for the guardians to retain any proper control of the homes, as the child could hardly be removed unless adopled by the guardians or unless the neglect had been so flagrant as to warrant prosecution. It will be seen from the report that homes and sleeping arrangements are, in many cases, unsatisfactory In the workhouse at Merthyr Tydfil, well children over three are only kept for a period of quarantine and are then sent out to the Aber- dare schools. The quarters for the children during the probationary period consist of a small dark day-room used for all the girls, the boys under eight, and the children under three. It was overfull at the date of a visit, though most of the babies were in the infirmary with measles. The sleeping accommodation consists of a dormitory furnished with beds and cots; this is used for all the girls, the boys under eight, and the nursing mothers. Thur. girls up to 16 share a room with the mothers of illegitimate babies. This, says Miss Williams. I consider a very serious matter. The children were clean in their persons and their clothes were sufficient. The dietary was good, the medical officer taking great interest in this question. For boys too old to put with the giris and infants there are no quarters at all, and any boy over about eight has to be put amongst the men. ABERDARE POOR LAW SCHOOL. The Poor Law Schools at Aberdare belonging to the guardians of the Merthyr Tydfil Union contained in December, 1907, 123 children, while 32 children were in two cottage homes, each of which contained 16 children. The main building- is not very satisfactory. Many of the rooms in the main building are dark and dismal and by no means well warmed. The girls' playroom is quite unfit for its purpose. It is dark and quite bare. There were no toys or work of any kind about. The boys' room was rather better, but poor. The children's dining-room* was dark and bare, and not heated at all. The sick room accommodation is very poor. The whole accommodation consists of one room with a wooden partition not reaching to the ceiling. At the time of my visit the sole occu- pant was one little girl suffering from eczema of the hands, who was quite alone, with no occu- pation. and sitting in a corner in a very inert fashion. I think she had been employing her- self picking a hole in the wall. Nowhere did I see any signs of out of school employment or amusement for either boys or girls, except that a fow of the older girls were helping to scrub out the dormitories. There was in the school only 20 minutes allowed for dinner, and when this has to include the serving out of food for a large number of children, there cannot be proper time for eating The children were on the whole very well nourished, specially those who had been some time in the institution. There were a few cases of illness. SOCIAL CONDITIONS. Miss Longman and Miss Phillips, in their re- port on the Merthyr Union, point out that rents range from 10s. a month to 24s. or 50s. Houses are so scarce that, save for condemned dwellings not yet destroyed, an empty house is hardly ever seen. The decent artisan with a large family may sometimes be weeks trying to get a house. Once a family gets into a slum quarter, their continuance there is pretty well assured. No other landlord would take them. and their rent is increased at the slum-owners' pleasure Thus in the worst courts in Merthyr the rente are sometimes as high as 6s. 6d. a week, though it is not uncommon for the landlord who is pretending to provide housing for the poor labourer to give his tenant a false rent book for show purposes which gives the rent as 2s. or 3s. The warmth of the houses, due to the con- stant fires. and the habits of a mining popu- lation, have set a high standard of personal cleanliness. There is always hot water, and it is noticeable that the children in Merthyr are seldom dirty in person. The homes and cloth- ing of the people, however, are not so well look- ed after.

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MERTHYR ADJOURNED LICENSING…

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