Monday, 3 October 2016

Bromley Union Kent Boarding Out Committee and Visitors Handbook

The records held at Bromley Historic Collections relating to boarded out children include a surviving copy of the Handbook reference 846GBy/A/W/9 given to Lady Visitors (and Committee members).
It also lists the Committee members and Relieving Officers in the 4 Union Districts and Union Doctors for the districts including the Beckenham Doctor A Primrose Wells of Bournville Beckenham who was male despite his chosen first name.
Miss Akers 1893 formal proposal to form a Committe of Lady Visitors from the constituent parishes of the Union had lead the Boarding Out Committe on 5 January 1894 to approve and submit to the Local Government Board for their approval the following Committee of Visitors.
Bromley              Miss Hay "Parkfield" who died and was replaced by Mrs Beeby London Road
                          Mrs Partridge "Barnfield"
                          Mrs Dodgson "Hayesford"
                          Miss Martindale "Overfield" Bickley
Chelsfield           Mrs Edward Norman
Chislehurst         Miss Willis Lamona Villa
Downe                Miss Harris Orange Court
Farnborough        Mrs Preston
Hayes                  Miss Brett Ash Lodge (Hayes part of Keston)
Keston                 Mrs Dudin Broadmoor Keston
Saint Pauls Cray   Mrs William Nash
West Wickham     Mrs Packe Hawes Down

The Committee was responsible for:

  • the provision of homes
  • superintendence of homes within the limits of this union for orphan and deserted children chargeable to the common fund of the Union
  • a fee of four shillings a week per child up to age 16 for lodging exclusive of clothing school fees and fees for medical attendance medicines and medical extras
  • a quarterly clothing allowance
  • payment of one penny a week to the head teacher for each child whose attendance was to be reported quarterly to the Boarding Out Committee of the Union
  • burial expenses for deceased children
  • payments to District Medical Officers who are to report on health of each child quarterly

Each Lady Visitor was allowed stationery and postage expenses each quarter in order to submit reports and to enter in correspondence with potential employers and employers of those children in employment and after care. The visitors soon identified needs which were not met and with the exception of their Secretary all devoted this allowance to form a fund to pay for fares and other unmet needs of the children.
The Handbook contained Local Government Board requirements and some experience that Miss Akers had obtained from other Union Lady Visitors;in addition the requirements of the Bromley Union are specified. The latter include:
"a member of the Committee should visit each home at least once a month at varying intervals and by surprise keeping a record of her visits and taking special notice of
 the health of the children
the food supplied (occasional meal time visits) "The appearance of the children will indicate whether the food is the right quantity and quality"
clothing "This should be examined thoroughly gone over half yearly.The visitor should observe what underclothing the child is wearing at the time".
 An inventory of clothing issued by the Matron of the Workhouse had to be maintained and recovered if the child was removed from a foster home for any reason. Within the clothing list there are two specific items which within the minutes of the boarding out Committee are proposed by Miss Akers the only female member of that Committee. She proposes that boys be issued with a cape for winter outer wear and the girls receive an Ulster waterproof overcoat. Although commonly associated as a male overcoat with caped sleeves by the 1890's various paterns and styles were available for girls see girls Ulster coat.
In late 1894 one visitor reports to the Boarding Out Committee that she does not in conscience feel able to make "surprise" visits at mealtimes or examine boys underwear. Her continued service as visitor is welcomed by the Committee on the understanding that she will "in my own way" ensure the adequacy of both food and clothing.
The visitors were to report on
the adequacy of accommodation available for present and future accommodation
sleeping arrangements within the household bedding to be inspected "It should be clearly understood that these inspections are not made on suspicion but because the visitor is bound to report to Committee from their knowledge at first hand".
temperance "on no account should a child be sent to a public house for beer or for any other purpose".
In no circumstances should a foster child be returned to the Union Workhouse without the knowledge of the visitor and transfer of children "should be made without removal to the Workhouse". It was the role of the visitor to receive complains from foster parents and in case of requested removal of foster children the visitor was required to communicate immediately with the Board.
There is within the minutes of the Committee ample evidence that Relieving Officers and the Chairman of the Boarding Out Committee and Secretary were supportive of foster parents coping with difficulty with challenging children and every effort is made to prevent breakdown of established care arrangement. The aftercare of children who leave school and remain in foster home and enter work or who enter service is one testament to the strength of these relationships with ongoing correspondence even after emigration reporting on the welfare of those for which formal responsibilty has ceased.
Emphasis is placed on the relationships between visitor and child,visitor and foster carer to achieve a succesful transition to employment.
The Boarding Out Committee minutes record the pain of some children in facing life ouside the Workhouse. Guidance is given to visitors about pocket money "in the Workhouse Schools they have little temptation to dishonesty but when they come out and see shops the desire to buy sweets or other things comes on them and if they have nothing they are tempted to steal".In many cases foster care is not able to assist children who had deeply rooted problems of lying and dishonesty. Some are called before the Committee and leave foster care to enter institutional care in an effort to divert them.
I will blog again about some of the guidance offered as these reflect Local Government attitudes in the last quarter of Queen Victoria's reign.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016