I move the Second Reading of this Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to enable public assistance authorities to assist societies engaged in giving food and lodgings to poor persons. This Bill follows upon an interesting experiment by the Dublin Poor Law authority, initiated in the year 1926 and continued since by the various boards responsible for the relief of the poor in the Dublin area. Under this scheme, certain workhouse buildings were put in repair and made available for use by a society whose members engaged in philanthropic work of various kinds. The society undertook to use the buildings for the reception and shelter of necessitous persons who might otherwise become inmates of the workhouse, to maintain the premises and to provide certain services and equipment. In making this arrangement, the Dublin Poor Law authority felt that they would improve the lot of the destitute persons concerned by placing them in the care of a society whose members devote themselves to the welfare of the people entrusted to their charge. In this matter, the expectations of the Dublin Poor Law authority were amply fulfilled. The Dublin Board of Assistance are of opinion that, were it not for the charitable and unselfish labours of these voluntary workers, the majority of the male population of the institution would become inmates of the workhouse, where they could not possibly receive the attention and encouragement that is now given them. Apart from that aspect of the question, it appears that the scheme has resulted in a substantial saving in the rates in the Dublin area. The extent of that saving will probably be realised by bearing in mind the fact that upwards of 500 people in one night are accommodated in this institution. The Dublin Board have already expended a considerable sum—somewhere in the neighbourhood of £3,000—in making the building suitable and providing furniture and other requisites and they are so impressed with the success and the useful nature of the work done that they are prepared to incur further expenditure on improvements and extensions of buildings.
The Bill under consideration proposes to give power to local authorities to provide for poor persons in the manner indicated. It will be observed that the assistance is to be given to societies affording relief in the form of food and lodging—in other words, to societies providing homes or institutions in which poor persons can get food and shelter. The assistance to be given is to be subject to such limitations as the Minister for Local Government may impose and, in that way, the Minister will be enabled to encourage the development of this form of assistance along lines considered desirable in the public interest. It will be noticed that Section 3 of the Bill is to have retrospective effect. These provisions are intended to remove doubts as to the legality of items of expenditure already incurred by Dublin Board of Assistance. Legal opinion was forthcoming that there is some doubt as to the legality of some payments under this head since 1926. I think the Bill is an important stage in the growth of schemes for the assistance of the poor, and I recommend it to the House for favourable consideration.