Some disabled ex-soldiers are refusing to work

Berkshire County Council found the war coming close to home when its Deputy Clerk, who had joined the army soon after the start of the war, was reported killed. Meanwhile they had begun to tackle the problem of those men who had returned home from the front with a permanent disability as a result of wounds. How might they be retrained?

DEATH OF THE DEPUTY CLERK

Resolved on the motion of the Chairman [James Herbert Benyon]: That a vote of condolence be forwarded to the widow of Lieut-Col H U H Thorne in her bereavement, and that it be accompanied by an expression of the great loss sustained by the Council in the untimely, though gallant, death in action of their Deputy Clerk.

Report of the Berkshire War Pensions Committee

The War Pensions Committee commenced their work on the 1 October, 1916.

The County, in accordance with the Scheme arranged by the County Council, has been divided into twelve Sub-committees, being, for the main part, one Sub-committee for each petty sessional division; but there have been certain adjustments, for the convenience of working, between the divisions of Wokingham and Easthampstead, while the Lambourn division has been divided between Wantage and Newbury division, with the exception of the parish of Lambourn itself, which is being worked by a Secretary and Treasurer.

Almoners have been appointed for each parish throughout the County, and the Almoners and Sub-committees respectively have had powers given them to deal with all urgent cases of wives and dependants of soldiers and sailors requesting financial assistance, each case being reported to this Committee for approval or revision as the circumstances may require.

During the six months alterations have been made in the amount of the State Separation Allowances and valuable additional powers have been given to the Pensions Committee in the way of making additional grants to meet to some extent the increase in prices, and the work has been now thoroughly organised.

Since the 1 October, 1916, up to the 30 April, 1917, the Finance and General Purposes Sub-committee have dealt with 1326 cases of Advances, Supplementary and Temporary Allowances, Temporary and Emergency Grants, etc. The payments made up to the 30 April, in respect of these Allowances and Grants, amount to a sum of £2299 2s 11d.

In addition to this the Sub-committee have dealt with 33 cases of Supplementary Pensions, which have been recommended to the War Pensions etc Statutory Committee.

The other section of the work of the committee is the very important and constantly increasing work of dealing with discharged and disabled soldiers and sailors. The principle adopted has been that so soon as the notification of the discharge of a man into the county has been received, the particulars are sent down to the Secretary of the Sub-committee in whose district the man proposes to live; enquiries are made in the district as to the man’s physical condition with a view of ascertaining whether he needs further medical treatment or training for some form of employment other than that to which he was accustomed prior to his disablement, and further inquiries to ascertain whether he needs financial assistance of either a temporary or permanent character, other than that provided by his pension, if any.

Considerable difficulty has been found in many cases where men have refused to work for fear of endangering the continuance of their pension, or because they are satisfied to remain as they are for the time being at any rate with the pension that they hold. The new Royal Warrant, however, will considerably strengthen the hands of the committee, as the Ministry of Pensions are entitled to withhold a portion of a pension if a man refuses to undertake treatment which the Pensions Committee, acting on medical advice, consider necessary for him, and the Pensions Committee will be enabled to grant a Separation Allowance for the wife and children where the man is undertaking training, and, further, to pay the man a bonus for each week of a course of training which he has competed to their satisfaction.

The provision of training is a difficult matter, as the necessary organisations are few and far between. In Berkshire the committee have three Schemes in course of formation.

Firstly, with the gracious sanction of His Majesty the King, they are enabled to make use of the Royal Gardens, Windsor, for the training of a number of men in Horticulture, under the direct supervision of the Head Gardener, and with the assistance of the University College, Reading, with a view to their becoming qualified to take posts as Gardeners in private service, and also to some extent fitting themselves for market garden work. The full details of the Scheme have yet to be submitted to the Statutory Committee, which has, however, already provisionally sanctioned the proposal. The Scheme provides for the boarding of the men at the Soldiers’ Institute, Windsor.

Secondly, similar work is proposed to be carried out at the new gardens which are now being arranged for by the University College of Reading.

Thirdly, a Scheme is being prepared for the training of men at Basildon upon Colonel Morrison’s Estate through his assistance, which Scheme will have the benefit of his personal supervision. The training to be received there will be in the general work required on any Estate or Farm, and should be of great value to the men whose disablements render open-air work advisable, or who are not otherwise qualified for the higher technical training in the direction of engineering, etc.

Finally, upon the suggestion of the Ministry of Pensions, a Scheme for co-operation in the way of training is being adopted, whereby the County Committees of Berkshire and Hampshire, with the Committees of the Boroughs of Reading, Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth and of the Isle of Wight, will combine under a Joint Committee, interchanging the use of the training institutions available within the areas of the respective Committees which may now be in existence, or will shortly be established. At the present time there is an excellent Institution at Portsmouth for the training of men in Engineering, Carpentry and Joinery, Plumbing, Boot-making, Commercial Subjects etc, while there is another Institution in Southampton.

The arrangements in this direction will be made by a Joint Committee with representatives from the various Local Committees concerned, and Mr Francis Bate, Chairman, and Mr Edmund Stevens, Vice-Chairman of the Disablements Sub-committee, have been appointed to represent Berkshire.

Since the Disablements Sub-committee commenced their work they have received notifications of 800 men discharged into the county, and up to the end of April returns had been made from the Sub-committees in respect of 660 of these men. A great number of them have already gone back to their previous employment or found employment elsewhere, and the Committee have dealt with the remainder of the cases, upwards of 170 in number.

There is a new War Pensions Bill now passing through Parliament under which it is proposed that the Treasury shall provide two thirds of the administration expenses of the Committee, the remainder being paid out of the County rates.

It is impossible at the present time to form anything like a reliable estimate as to the amount of these expenses, but it is not likely that they will be less than £900 a year.

BCC minutes, 19 May 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)

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