THE AGED POOR
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basis. and two local government officials I spoke to singled out the society's activities for special praise.
The Catholic Women's League, too, in a more limited fashion,, has shown that its organisers are alive to the difficulties of the aged poor. The C.W.L. is shortly to open a home in Ealing where women "in reduced circumstanceswill he admitted. Bill the home will have room for only 18 people, at four guineas a week.
A Catholic doctor with a large practice in a south London workingclass district expressed the opinion that "Catholics" could do much more than they are doing to link their own efforts with those of the local authorities."
He declared that organisations like the S.V.P. are already "stretched to the limits of their resources," and that, short of a big increase in membership and money, have not the means to help this special class of "new poor."
"In this area I know personally several old people whose burden would be lightened by visiting Catholics, who could not only perform elementary services like running their small errands, but could advise them on how to benefit from such local council schemes as homehelps," he said.
"What we lack here, and in general, is some sort of co-ordinating machinery between Catholic societies already working for old people in need and the secular authorities."
Stepney does it
In the East End of London I discovered that "co-ordinating machinery" of roughly the kind urged by the doctor has been established and is functioning smoothly. Canon Thomas Fitzgerald. parish priest of St. Mary and St. Michael's, Commercial Road, described it to me.
"We have a body down here called the Stepney Old People's Association which caters for Jews and Protestants as well as Catholics. It enables poor people who are old and have no relatives free to look after them to receive something of the care they need and are entitled to.
"I myself regard it as a model experiment because, as a joint effort between the different denominations, it prevents a lot of overlapping and saves a lot of time and money. "The Catholics in the whole area are naturally responsible for their own charges, visiting them and putting them in touch with the association.
There are meals for old people. and if they're unable to move about much the meals and home-helps go to them. We also makearrangements for their recreation and entertainment.
"The association is in constant touch not only with the London County Council and the local authorities but with societies like the Red Cross and the Women's Volun tary Service, which take an interest in this grave social problem. I'm convinced that we're tackling it on the right lines."
Canon Fitzgerald remarked that it is hoped shortly to launch on a
small scale a further scheme to enable old but able-bodied people to do part-time work.
"Through the initiative of Mrs. Basil Henriques, the wife of a
Jewish magistrate, a workroom has
been set apart in the Berners Jewish settlement. Only a few will be em
ployed there, but it's a start and it shows what can be done by a joint effort."
Only a fraction
Even in the East End, however. where natural neighbourliness and common sense seem to make Christian co-operation in the social field more feasible than elsewhere, the basic difficulty of finding volunteers in the parishes to visit the aged poor remains.
The secretary of the Stepney Old People's Association said : "We are doing good work but it's doubtful if we have yet.been able to reach more than a fraction of those in real want.
"We're helpless in that respect without door-to-door visitors— Catholic, Protestant and Jewish— who make it their responsibility to put us in touch with old and destitute men and women who have to fend for themselves.**