by ehistoryadmin on March 8, 2022

The Kildare Observer 25 June 1921


The conference held at Naas on Tuesday last in reference to the question of workhouse abolition is likely to be sweeping in its results, this being the first occasion on which the question on workhouse abolition or amalgamation was discussed on a county basis.  The matter was debated in its broader aspects, the conference devoting but little time to the consideration of details, which must, of course, be dealt with by those who are more in touch with the administration of the Poor Law system, and who are, therefore, in a better position to weigh the pros and cons of each proposition made in the matter.  For a long time past the Board of Guardians of the various unions in the county have been looking for a lead in this very important question to the County Council, more, perhaps, because the County Council as the chief executive body in the county commanded influence that would bring the various boards into line, than because any guidance on the question of details was expected.  The County Council as such is, of course, not in close touch with the work of Poor Law administration.  It has in fact nothing whatever to do with the matter beyond raising the rates to meet the demands of the various boards.  Therefore, obviously when the County Council has approved of the principle of workhouse abolition and the setting up in its stead of some scheme more satisfactory from the point of view of the poor and the afflicted, and more economical in its operation, consideration of ways and means to bring about the end desired is a matter for the Board of Guardians themselves.  The County Council has approved of the principle, and it is a striking fact that at the conference no word of protest was raised by any single representative of any of the bodies participating against the proposal to abolish workhouses.  This is not at all a surprising fact, for the workhouse system has never been popular with the poor and afflicted, and has certainly nothing to command it to the ratepayers.  It is terribly extravagant, and instead of being an incentive to those who are so unfortunate as to have to avail of its provisions, to make an effort to exert themselves on their own behalf and to become useful, self-supporting members of society, it produces exactly the contrary effect upon them.  Yet while all are agreed that it should be abolished the actual operation of abolition is one in which public bodies should move cautiously, fully weighing each aspect of the situation and counting the cost of the alternative systems proposed.  Figures were quoted by Mrs. Moore, who has been one of the principal movers in the matter as far as Naas Union is concerned, showing that whereas the cost of administering poor relief outside of the workhouse is but one-tenth of the actual expenditure, 50 per cent of the cost of indoor relief – that is to say, of relief within the walls of the workhouse – goes in administration.  There can be no doubt that the expansion of the boarding-out system so as to embrace not alone the youth but the adult workhouse population, whether it be by way of pension to those who are capable of fending for themselves with some assistance, or in paying for the maintenance of those who are too old or too feeble to look after themselves, in homes.  We are told that its costs practically £1 a week to maintain each inmate of the Naas Union at present.  That is, of course, an absurd and anomalous and extravagant cost.  In the case of the aged many of them would on leaving the workhouse, become entitled to the old-age pension, which could be supplemented by the guardians from the rates, where necessary.  Already the Naas Guardians have decided to abolish the workhouse as such from 1st July next.  Baltinglass workhouse is no longer a workhouse except in name.  The same remark applies to Edenderry.  Celbridge Guardians seem to be anxious to close the institution with their control, and there only remains Athy workhouse in connection with the abolition of which no steps seem to have been taken so far.  The ratepayers look to the guardians in each of the Unions to ensure that by the abolition of the workhouse, real and very necessary reduction of cost of Poor Law administration will result.

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