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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCC/WE/PA
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1889-1948
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 10.88 linear metres
Name of creator(s): MCC | Middlesex County Council x Middlesex County Council


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Public Assistance Department was set up under the 1929 Local Government Act which followed the recommendations of the Macclean Report. Under section 1 of the Act the functions of the existing Poor Law Guardians were transferred to the County Council from 1 April 1930. Section 4 of the Act required that a scheme for the administration of such functions be submitted to the Ministry of Health for approval. The Middlesex (Public Assistance) Scheme 1929 was approved and the first meeting of the Public Health, Housing and Public Assistance Committee sat on 16 January 1930.

The 1929 Act did not abolish the Poor Law system, but transferred its administrative functions. Poor Law had its origins in the 1601 Poor Relief Act which put the responsibility for providing relief onto the parish. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act established Boards of Guardians and grouped parishes together into Poor Law Unions for which the Guardians took responsibility. The single most important function of the Poor Law Guardians was to administer, regulate, and dispense relief to the poor and destitute. Other functions included child care (the 1872 Infant Life Protection Act and 1908 Children Act] and the administration of hospitals, care of the homeless and single mothers.

Under section 1 of the 1929 Act the Middlesex County Council took responsibility for the following: consideration and examination of applicants for relief, determination of the nature and amount of any relief granted, determination of any reimbursement to the council; making arrangements for the casual poor and administration of casual wards; and managing institutions and staff, visitation and inspection and making arrangements with other counties for joint use of institutions. The office of Director of Public Assistance was created. The Director was responsible to the Public Assistance Committee and Clerk of the County Council and had the following tasks: control of the staff dealing with Poor Law administration; keeping records and indexes; supply of goods, materials and provisions to the poor law institutions; arranging settlement, emigration, casuals, schemes for dealing with the able bodied unemployed; adoption, boarding out and apprenticeship of children and reporting to the Public Assistance Committee and Supervising Guardians meetings.

Before the 1929 Local Government Act the following Poor Law Unions existed in Middlesex: Brentford; Edmonton; (which had the out county parishes of Cheshunt and Waltham); Hendon; Staines; and Willesden. The parishes of Hampton, Hampton Wick and Teddington were in Kingston Union and the parishes of Finchley, Friern Barnet and South Mimms were in Barnet Union. The Middlesex (Public Assistance) Scheme 1929 divided the County into the following 6 areas for the purposes of administration: North Middlesex; North east Middlesex; Central Middlesex; Willesden; West Middlesex and South Middlesex.

Each area had a Guardians Committee of 18 members to administer the relief functions transferred to the County Council, namely to interview all applicants for relief and distribute it. The Committees also inspected and reported on institutions in their areas. In 1931 the Committees were delegated the function of making determinations of relief for the unemployed under the Unemployment Insurance (Transitional / Payments) Regulations 1931.

Middlesex County Council Act 1934:

In 1934 the Public Assistance Department was overhauled. Problems had arisen with the Guardians Committees because large scale migration into Middlesex had increased the number of relief applications. In addition the committees varied in their generosity towards applicants. In October 1932 the Ministry of Health criticised the out relief system in one Middlesex area and this resulted in County Scales and Regulations being introduced. When a Guardians Committee wished to deviate from these rules they had to submit their case to the Public Assistance Committee. As large numbers of submissions were made by certain committees the County Council decided it would be more effective for them to run the service directly.

The Middlesex County Council Act 1934 gave the County Council direct and complete control over the administration of relief by means of abolishing the Guardians Committees. The work of the Guardians Committees was assumed by a Relief Sub-Committee made up entirely of Council Members. The County was re-divided into 8 new areas, grouped in 4 sections: Area 1: North Middlesex and North East Middlesex; Area 2: East Middlesex; Area 3: North East Middlesex and Central Middlesex and Area 4: South Middlesex, West Middlesex and South West Middlesex.

Each area had an Area Officer and a Deputy Area Officer. The Area Officers were in charge of the staff in their regions and advised the County Council Committees on granting relief. The area offices were allocated to Edmonton (area 1), Tottenham (area 2), Kilburn (area 3) and Brentford (area 4). An Adjudicating Officer was appointed to each area to interview applicants for relief and investigate liable relations. Hospital Almoners sent financial details about patients to the Area Officers. Appeals by relief applicants could be made and were heard by the Sub Committees.

National Health Service Act 1946 and National Assistance Act 1946:

The National Health Service Act transferred the County Council's responsibility for the provision of a countrywide hospital service to the new regional hospital boards. The Act came into force in July 1948. In the same month the National Assistance Act was enforced and transferred the responsibility of the County Councils for relieving financial distress to the National Assistance Board. Thus the functions of the Public Assistance Department were radically overhauled and a new Welfare Department was set up as its successor. The first meeting of the Welfare Committee took place on 5 July 1948.

Under the National Assistance Act the Welfare Department had the following functions: provision of residential accommodation for the aged and infirm; provision of temporary accommodation for the homeless; promotion of the welfare of people with disabilities such as blindness; administration of the registration of all homes for the elderly and disabled and responsibility to insure the homes were suitably maintained; registration of charities for the disabled and provision of temporary protection of moveable property of certain persons.

The following areas were used to administer these responsibilities within Middlesex: Area 1: Enfield, Edmonton; Area 2: Southgate, Wood Green, Potters Bar, Friern Barnet; Area 3: Tottenham, Hornsey; Area 4: Hendon, Finchley; Area 5: Harrow; Area 6: Wembley, Willesden; Area 7: Ealing, Acton; Area 8: Uxbridge, Rusilip-Northwood, Hayes and Harlington, Yiewsley and West Drayton; Area 9: Brentford and Chiswick, Southall, Heston and Isleworth and Area 10: Twickenham, Staines, Feltham, Sunbury on Thames.

On 1 April 1965 on the abolition of the Middlesex County Council the functions of the Welfare Department were transferred to the newly established London Boroughs.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Middlesex County Council Public Assistance and Welfare Department relating to public assistance and relief, 1889-1948, including relevant Parliamentary legislation; papers of relief offices; personnel files; papers relating to relief policy; reports; appropriation of Poor Law hospitals; assessment regulations; papers relating to individual hospitals; papers relating to maternity care; papers relating to the care of children; papers relating to the care of mentally disabled persons; legal proceedings; registers and case files; registers of persons in the care of Boards of Guardians including lunatics and non settled poor.

Also papers relating to the Second World War including relief districts; invasion plans; fire watching and equipment; clothing distribution; arrangements for evacuation of persons in institutions and care homes; home refugees; refugees from abroad; billeting and re-housing; rest centres and emergency feeding.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The archives have been divided into the following series: MCC/WE/PA/1 Subject and policy; MCC/WE/PA/2 World War Two; MCC/WE/PA/3 Registers.

Conditions governing access:

These records are open to public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to closure periods.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired with the records of its parent authority, the Middlesex County Council, and with successor authorities.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further information on the history of the Middlesex County Council please see Middlesex by Sir Clifford Radcliffe (2 editions, 1939 and 1953), LMA Library reference 97.09 MID; and The County Council of the Administrative County of Middlesex: 76 years of local government, 1 April 1889 to 31 March 1965, by Middlesex County Council (1965), LMA library reference S97.09 MID.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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