Home Industry and Commerce Town Council Problems of Poverty – Boots for Bairns – Convened Conference

Problems of Poverty – Boots for Bairns – Convened Conference

October 1932

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 07 October 1932

Problems of Poverty

Plight of The Part-Time Worker

Boots for Bairns

A Conisbro’ Convened Conference

A conference initiated by the Conisborough Urban Council for the purpose of considering the question of providing boots and shoes for school children in necessitous cases was held in the Mansion House at Doncaster on Wednesday when Alderman E. Dunn, of Maltby, presided over a gathering which included representatives of ten local authorities representing a population of 170,000.

The authorities represented were Conisborough Urban Council, Adwick Urban Council. Thurnscoe Urban Council, Wath Urban Council, Swinton Urban Council, Bolton Urban Council. Maltby Urban Council, Bentley with Arksey Urban Council, Rawmarsh ‘Urban Council, and Thorne Rural Council.

Ald. Dunn voiced their thanks to the Mayor of Doncaster for allowing them to hold the conference there

The Clerk to the Conisborough Council (Mr. Spencer Baker), read letters from the Mexborough Urban Council stating that they had made their own arrangements, and from the Doncaster Rural Council stating that they took the view that this was a matter for the Poor Law authority.

The Chairman said they were indebted to the Conisborough Council for instigating the conference. Mr. Baker read a letter from the County Council pointing out that they had no statutory authority to establish a boot fund apart from their duty to relieve destitution.

Plight of Part-Time Workers.

Mr. Collins (Conisborough) said they had in their area a number of people too poor to keep their children properly shod. One or two had made application to the local guardians committee, but because the parent was actually working no assistance could be given.

It was felt by his Council that as they had had a refusal, in a sense, from the County Council they ought to get local authorities together to see if pressure could not be brought to bear on the proper authorities in order that the children might be adequately shod during the winter. He wanted to know if a public assistance committee was within its rights in refusing to allow footwear where genuine need was proved. The setting up of a voluntary fund like the Coalfields Distress Fund had been suggested.

That would meet the situation but what they wanted to find out was it they could grant boots to people who were actually working short time.

No Relief for the Unemployed

Mr. Baker said the Poor Law Act of 1930 gave far more discretion than previous legislation but relief had to be given on certain general principles. There had to be “some sort of destitution.” No public assistance committee could grant relief to a particular child.

They had to examine the resources of the family and if the resources were below a certain line they could grant relief in kind which might take the form of boots. They had from time to time granted relief of that sort. They could take it for granted that where a man was in regular employment relief would not be granted. He was afraid the only way out was the establishment of a voluntary fund.

Voluntary or Poor Law Aid.

Ald. J W. Lane (Adwick) reminded them of what the Prince of Wales did in this direction a few years ago. As a result of his appeal a tremendous amount of money was secured, and thousands of pairs of boots and shoes distributed. The mayors also did valuable work at that time. It seemed to him they would have to work through the leading man in their towns and cities again.

Mrs. E. Levers (Conisborough), said there was a need for “some sort of a fund” as soon as possible.

The chairman said it was permissible for the authorities to provide boots and clothing for children going to secondary or grammar schools and it was only fair to say that the County Council had forwarded to the National Conference of Educational Associations a resolution that similar provision be made for children attending elementary schools but that resolution had been defeated. The point raised by Mr. Collins might be worth testing particularly as relief was granted under so many sets of circumstances. He suggested that representatives from that conference should state the case for the part-time worker to the West Riding Public Assistance Officer.

Mr. A. Fouchard, C.C. (Bolton), said the whole thing hinged on the definition of destitution. He agreed that it was worth testing. If it was not tested they would be constantly in the position of appealing to voluntary effort. That, in the state of industry in their district, was equivalent to attempting to feed the dog with its own tail.

Mr. A. McCracken (Adwick), said he thought they had more power than they really knew.

The chairman pointed out that if they asked the assistance of the Lord Mayors of Sheffield and Leeds they would not give it for the miners of South Yorkshire. Sheffield would say they had 40 per cent. of unemployed of their own and had to look after them first. It was his view that the position should he tested as he had suggested and subsequently it would still be open to local authorities to petition the county to ask the Minister of Health if he would allow under present circumstances to the levying of a special rate for the purpose they had in mind.

Deputation to P.A. Officer.

“My own view,” he went on, “is that it this case for the part-time worker is made out to the Public Assistance Committee they will have very great difficulty in turning it down.” If they were to have a voluntary effort for South Yorkshire as distinct from the boroughs he though they would be well advised to ask Lord Harewood if he would be prepared at a very early date to meet them in conference at the Mansion House and head a subscription list for this district.

Mr. A. Gomersall (Conisborough) stressed the fact that in any attempt that was made to achieve the object of that conference the whole working class should be specified and not one class.

It was decided that the deputation consist of Mr. H. Shaw (Maltbv). Mr. A. McCracken (Adwick). Mr. J. T. E. Collins (Conisborough), Mr. G. T. Trimmingham, Thorne and Mr. J. Prendergast (Rawmarsh), and be introduced by the three county councillors.

The deputation would interview the County Public, Assistance Officer and put before him the impoverished state of part-time workers with view ascertaining whether it was permissible provide relief in the form of boots to children in necessitous cases.