Here, for instance, is a child who is shortsighted, and for whom the medical inspector orders spectacles. The parents see the doctor, and though they are told the child is short-sighted and needs spectacles, they excuse themselves from obtaining them, inexpensively as this can be done, by arguing the child has been like that for years, does not seem any worse ; and, in fact, they ignore the medical advice.
Then it may fall to the organiser to agitate in the matter, visit and visit the parents till the spectacles are provided. It once took eight or nine months before this was done in a certain instance. But though sometimes spectacles are given and obtainable on order, this cannot be done if it is known that the parents can afford to buy them. It is a common experience that parents are more amenable to advice given at a hospital, where the surroundings are impressive.
Such cases need tactful persuasion to dispel obstinacy and ignorance. Sometimes the teachers in the school staff constitute the Care Committee, and the organiser has the advantage of their personal contact with a certain child, but actually does most of the work herself.
It would hardly do for her to be over sensitive. Like a woman sanitary inspector, she must shut her ears to abusive words from antagonistic parents who regard her well-meaning concern for the child as interfering. She also needs capacity for organisation, and ability to manage people and work the committee smoothly. She ought not to have to go into the homes of the people, but, like the majority of women, she is conscientious in her thoroughness. She may any time hear of a specially bad case which she feels it her duty to investigate, and perhaps communicates with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, with the police, or with rescue workers ; or she may wish to satisfy herself that a child who appears ill-fed is not really necessitous, but ill or living in insanitary conditions.
Perhaps she finds a few words of advice about fresh air, plain cooking, or so on, are effectual, as evidenced in the improved looks of the child. The knowledge that something has been done to dispel a little of the crass ignorance and folly that block the way of the child's advance compensates for a great deal of uphill work, and cheers the heart in the midst of much that is saddening and physically exhausting.
" How would you train for this work ? " The best, indeed the inevitable, course of preparation is to be had at one of the women's settlements. The settlement at Southwark (44, Nelson Square, Southwark, London, S.e.), is undenominational, and was the pioneer, being founded by the women's colleges of Oxford and Cambridge in 1887. That at Canning Town is well-known ; and another interesting settlement which trains organisers is the United Girls' Schools' Settlement, 19, Peckham Road, Camberwell, London, S.e. Largely supported by school girls, it works in connection with the Charity Organisation Society, the Invalid Children's Aid Association, the Children's Country Holiday Fund, girls' clubs, the Camberwell Health Society, and other philanthropic and parochial associations. A two years' course at the settlement is recommended, the fees for which are 70 guineas a year. The students attend the School of Sociology, Denison House, Vauxhall Bridge Road, the fees for lectures at which are £12.
It has been found best to devote the first year to reading, attending lectures, and studying sociology and the theoretical aspects of social work, which ex-university students accomplish more easily than others, accustomed as they are to regular hours of study and to essay-writing. There is a useful library at the settlement, where a student may even read up German methods of social work. By this means a thorough knowledge of the social and economic problems of the day is acquired. Then follows the practical work, usually done in the district of the settlement, the head of the settlement and the tutors of the schools determining its direction for the individual student.
Organising secretaries are increasingly in demand for girls' clubs, social institutes, relief societies, and rescue work, and such secretaries earn salaries of from £50 to £120 or so. Much of such work is also done voluntarily in connection with church organisations.
Let us suppose an ex-student from a settlement has been appointed an organiser under the London County Council. She has a comfortable office provided for her and is prepared for work mainly in three directions : assistance of necessitous children, medical care, employment of ex-scholars.
In the handbook issued by the Education Committee of the L.c.c., she finds ample information and directions concerning the work in connection with the Children's Care (Central) Sub-committee and her own Care (School) Committee. She even finds in an appendix typical menus and recipes for cooking the meals for necessitous children, directions concerning the collection of voluntary contributions, and the management of feeding centres.
She familiarises herself with the local Labour Exchange, the filling up of forms - " medical," "case paper," " school leaving " - the hospital treatment of ear, eye, nose, throat, teeth, etc. She makes acquaintance with teachers, members of the Care Committee, the functions of the police and the relieving officer, wages, apprenticeship, and numbers of interesting subjects. To show the care with which a child is looked after, it may be worth mentioning that the form filled in for medical treatment bears the name of the school, the electoral area, the name, age, and address of the child, the school doctor's report after medical inspection, the report on the child's home (signed by visitor), the previous medical treatment (and dates), and arrangements suggested for treatment.
Reports of subsequent visits and decisions of School Care Committees are entered in another form. It rests with the Care Committee to decide whether the parents shall pay 1d. or 1s. for the whole treatment, say, at the Royal Eye Hospital. The committee also has the power to advance money which the parents pay back in weekly instalments. Such arrangements concern the child's ears, lips, nose, throat, teeth, or ringworm. For any other trouble the child attends a hospital like an ordinary patient.
Then there are the " dinner cases." If a parent applies to the schoolmaster for a free dinner, the latter fills up a form (with an elaborated " case paper ") and sends it to the Care Committee, who directs the applicant to apply or not.
The committee finds out whether the family is really poor or known to the guardians. If the child is necessitous, it is fed, and application is renewed in a month's time, if the parent is still unable to feed it.
An interesting and important branch of the organiser's work is in connection with the After-care Committee. Three months before a child leaves school, a headmaster, or headmistress, fills up a" School Leaving Form," containing particulars of name, age, address, standard, dates of entry and leaving school, conduct, health, special ability, work recommended, height, recommendation of continuance at school or evening classes.
The second part of the form concerns the Care Committee's visit to parents, parents' circumstances, condition of home, parents' wishes about child's employment, name and address of a suitable person who would keep in touch with the boy or girl, and finally the Care Committee's recommendation concerning the kind of work to be undertaken by the boy or girl.
All this entails much visiting and supervision long after the boy and girl leave school, and the filling up of a form half-yearly.