chapter  10
Local Government and Social Policy
Pages 30

Gilbert Slater's chapter was written shortly after Neville Chamberlain's redistribution of Poor Law functions had broken down under the impact of mass unemployment, which (Slater observed) might be 'the rock on which our present social order will split and capsize' (p. 368). New legislation, the Unemployment Act 1934, provoked much head-shaking about the authoritarian style in which the powers of a new central government agency, to which many of the functions of local government in this field had been transferred, were being exercised. But beyond these immediate issues lurked other problems, still only dimly glimpsed. 'Looking towards the future', says Slater, 'we see that Malthus has triumphed. Births numbering only 580,413 in 1933 against 734,788 persons married makes fears of an excess number of births ridiculous. They have given place to new fears of deterioration in the average innate quality of children born, and of racial suicide. These fears will create future issues with regard to public assistance, which will doubtless continue to be fertile of social conflict' (p. 369).