Youths who come in for treatment, and who seem in danger of drifting into an idle and thriftless life, are handed over to one of the apprenticeship societies and taught a trade. Again, in the case of children whose illness is solely due to parental neglect, the N.s.p.c.c. is communicated with, so that something may be done to check all this preventable disease.
To carry out duties of this kind success-fully, evidently requires a woman of somewhat exceptional qualities - a woman of culture and education, who, besides possessing force of character and a keen insight into human nature, has the invaluable gifts of tact and sympathy to make her office of real service to the poor.
It is the university and college trained woman who is chiefly needed, and there are many such who would gladly devote their talents to work of a social nature, but who have hitherto been compelled to take up teaching or one of the other ordinary professions in order to make a living.
The new profession of hospital almoner offers just the opportunity required, as it provides a fair remuneration, though, perhaps, one that is hardly in itself sufficient to attract women of the class required, unless they are actuated by a love for the work itself.
Training is carried out under the auspices of the Hospital Almoners' Council, at Denison House, Vauxhall Bridge Road, this body having been founded by Mr. C. S. Loch, the secretary of the Charity Organisation Society.
In order to attract the right kind of candidate, the cost of training has been made extremely low, being only £5 for a course extending over a year or eighteen months.
Each candidate who applies for training is first sent to a hospital to study the actual work of an almoner. If she still wishes to engage in it she is interviewed by the council, who, if they approve of her application, arrange for her training.
The first part of the course is carried out in a district office of the Charity Organisation Society, and the student there acquires a knowledge of general social and charitable work. She is given practice in interviewing applicants, pays visits to the homes of the poor, learns the business routine of an office, including correspondence and the keeping of accounts. She is instructed in the practical working of the Poor Law, and pays visits to institutions and the various agencies which exist in London for the relief and assistance of the poor.
The last part of the training is concerned with learning the actual duties of the office, and arrangements are made for the student to go to a hospital, where she is attached to the out-patients' department, and works under the direction of an experienced almoner.
All candidates who apply for training must be under 35 years of age.
Salaries begin at £100 to £120 a year, and may rise to £150 or £200.
The council use their influence to obtain posts for their students, and none of these have had very long to wait for an appointment.
The prospects of the profession are decidedly good, as, though not all, nor even the majority of London hospitals as yet employ almoners, and the movement has only begun in the provinces, the value of their work has been so decisively proved that it is doubtless only a question of time when every large hospital will employ one of these officials.
The Necessity of Adequate Training - How Unskilled Workers are at a Disadvantage - Help Towards the Expense of Training - Societies that Grant Loans - Conditions Imposed - A Fund which does Not Lend, but Gives
The importance of special training for every kind of work undertaken by educated women is becoming more and more widely recognised. Even in professions relating more or less to domestic work, in which the untrained woman once held undisputed sway, such as the care of children, housekeeping, cookery, and the management as matrons of schools and institutions, there is little demand and less pay for the middle-class girl who cannot produce a diploma which proves that she is an expert in some particular branch.
Competition among untrained workers grows continually keener, and the salaries offered for lady companions, uncertificated governesses, and teachers of music and other accomplishments, has declined below the very modest level of a few years ago.
As an instance may be cited a case which recently came under the notice of one of the women's employment societies. An application was made to the society by someone who wished to employ a lady to do the general domestic work of a country house - with the exception of the knives and boots - and to look after two children, for the magnificent sum of 5s. a week. In another case the request was for a lady to give finishing lessons to a girl, aged seventeen, in French, music, and painting for two hours a day, for which she was to receive no remuneration, but a "comfortable home was offered without board."
Thus, while the uneducated woman worker receives higher wages than she ever did before, the reverse is the case with a lady seeking to earn her own living, unless she has received special training.
In the latter case the outlook is much brighter than it has ever been, as good salaries are obtainable, and the opportunities for engaging in new branches of work are increasing in every direction.