Source 8  

Simplified version of transcript source 8
(Catalogue ref: MH 32/62)

Thank you for the letter of the 20th in which you tell me of the need to make some changes to the daily diet of children aged between 2 and 9 years. I have no hesitation in my answer to your question about splitting this group into two and how to provide workhouse children with the appropriate type of food.

In my opinion, the present system has not settled this matter. As far as the younger children are concerned, their health is often damaged and food often wasted. Therefore, the Board’s proposals are very welcome. I would also like to suggest that instead of leaving the preparation of the daily diet to the Guardians and the workhouse medical officer, the latter should be required to make his suggestions and give them to Board of Guardians and they can send them to the Poor Law Board with their comments.

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out about the need, whilst talking about splitting age groups, of the need to set up a nursery class in every workhouse. This would be under the care of a trained female who would be responsible for all those children under the age of six. They would have all of their meals in a warm, well ventilated room with a wooden floor. Workhouses that have these nurseries have benefited as result from healthier children and improved discipline. Mothers are allowed to feed their babies at all times and have them with them at night in the dormitories. As a result, the children are kept clean and safe during the daytime, and their meals are controlled by the medical officer.

In workhouses where there are no nurseries, a great many in fact, the children are often with their mothers. These mothers are often single and use the child as an excuse for getting out of work. They prevent cleanliness by having their children on their laps at mealtimes. The mothers also feed their children food from the table and this is highly unsuitable for babies. Indeed, this is often a cause of death. The death rate of these young children is increased by the instance of cold stone or brick floors in the female wards. Another dreadful result of the lack of nurseries is the practice of putting the children of single women in the care of 15 or 16 year old girls whilst the mothers are at work. This means that these girls are in continual contact with the very people with whom they should avoid.

Finally, lack of nurseries for children of 4 or 5 years often means that they are sent to the girl’s school. This has a bad effect on the older children because the teacher has to concentrate on the younger children which is often damaging to their own health and mental state.

I am honoured to your obedient servant,
Lords, and Gentlemen