History of Social Work
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Dec 18th, 2019

History of Social Work

Key events such as the Elizabethan Poor Law, the industrial revolution, the first charity organised society (COS) and the settlement movement were established mainly in the United Kingdom however similar models were then adapted in the United States and Australia. Pioneering members of society helped advocate for human rights, social reform movements and actuate formal academic training in becoming a qualified Social Worker.

Social Work has evolved in to the profession it is today influenced by some of the events mentioned in the purpose to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of an individual or group through education, community organizing, direct practice and social policies with many concepts that started years ago, still relevant and practiced today. The Elizabethan Poor Law was first established in England, 1601 and was designed to set a standard of rules to determine who in society was “worthy poor and undeserving poor” (Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2012, p.

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Able bodied poor were placed in institutions, or workhouses and people were taxed to pay for this system while the disabled, elderly or sick were placed under their parishes care (Huff, n. d. ). The second amendment in 1834 of the Poor Law saw the new act focus more on deterring the able bodied poor of relief by making the conditions of the workhouses harsh so only truly destitute members of society would apply. Australia did not introduce a poor law, however the definition of deserving poor and undeserving poor along with the assumptions and principles still applied. Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2012, p. 34) It was argued that poverty was a necessity in society and without, communities could not exist in a state of civilisation as without poverty there would be no labour, without labour there could be no riches and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth (Pennington, 2011). From early 1700 to 1850 the Industrial Revolution saw overwhelming changes economically and socially.

The migration from rural areas to urban led to wages being cut in farming areas while urban areas suffered with long formidable working conditions, poor pay, poor sanitation, no running water and cramped living condition due to people seeking work in the mass produced factories or mills. (Pierson, 2011) While this improved standards of living for some, it created dangerous working and living conditions for the poor and working classes, children were no exception. (Industrial Revolution , 2013) United Kingdom was the first to industrialize and stood alone in these issues.

Poverty was seen as a “natural condition of the labouring poor” (Pennington, 2011). Society started to look at ways to aid the poor from the issues the revolution had created and this was when Social Work started to emerge among society. Social Workers were previously known Almoners or “Friendly visitors” (Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2012). Friendly visitors were from a middle to upper class family and were mainly woman that held Christian beliefs and were who made the decision based on the individual’s circumstance in who were deserving or non-deserving of support (Huff, p. ). As religion was highly influential in society, parish based Charities began forming and the first Charity Organised Society (COS) started in England in 1840 (Pierson, 2011). Upper-class American Protestants often looked to England for models to use in approaching poverty and other social issues in the United States. The Benevolent Society was the first established in Australia, founded by Edward Smith in 1813 and was based on promoting Christian knowledge and benevolence (Benevolent Society, 2012) and still exists today minus the Christian led beliefs.

By the end of 1860, it was becoming apparent that outdoor relief was draining community resources as poverty increased throughout the United Kingdom and other forms of support were needing to be created as people were becoming aware that it was not just a case of the poor seeking relief because of their character, but more so of the conditions they were living in (Dulmus & Sowers, 2012). The settlement movement became another key feature in establishing Social Work in a bid for society to focus on the causes of poverty rather than the individual.

This required the volunteer or social worker to live in the houses with the residents, “Neighbourhood based houses were established in a bid to bring people together from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to share knowledge, skills and values” (Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2012, p. 35). In 1869, Octavia Hill focused establishing support housing in London for the poor and organising groups and activities. Octavia strongly believed that “we were to help the poor help themselves by empowering people with rights to encourage responsibility” (Smith, 2008).

Settlement houses soon established the first by Samuel and Henrietta Barnett in 1884 in London, named Toynbee Hall. The United States were quick to follow in this new development as Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Star established America’s, Hull House in 1889. By 1890, settlements were known as an important method in researching and analysing social information then feeding this back into policy discussions, this aspect inspiring many social reform minded individuals (Pierson, 2011).

This new form of support saw a shift away from the COS with the noted difference being the COS seemed to focus on the individual, determining moral worthiness while the settlement movement applied a more holistic view with prevention and intervention being the main focus on improving environmental, social, educational and family issues (Huff, p. 6). This reform saw Charity leaders become focussed on developing Social Work as a profession and the need for formal qualifications arise.

In 1898 Mary Richmond, who was the director of Baltimore Charity Society then established the New York school of Philanthropists which became the world’s first formal training centre for Social Workers (Gleeson, 2008). Many other schools established soon after across the UK, US and Australia. This saw a move away from Christian views to a more subjective and scientific relationship with the individual (Huff, p. 6). Richmond published several books and the most famous “Social Diagnosis” was published in 1917.

Many of her principles are still used today and she is seen as the founder of casework (Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2012). The American Association of Social Workers was founded in 1921 which set the professional standards of Social Work guidelines and rules, opting to exclude charities and group workers as they lacked the formal specialized training (Dulmus & Sowers, 2012). Australian Norma Parker, Constance Moffit and Eileen Davidson undertook postgraduate Social Work training in the United States and were the first to hold a formal qualification (Gleeson, 2008, p. 09) then went on to develop social work education and professional development in New South Wales with Katharine Ogilvie. The after effects of The First World War in 1914 and the Great Depression in 1929 created poignant changes in moral theory and pressure for legislative changes and social reform were again addressed (Wade, 1967). In 1948 the United Nations developed the first Declaration of Human Rights which covered social, economic and cultural rights.

Human rights encompass the body of Social Work today with many practices and the framework focussing on the individual rights of people (Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2012). The Seebohm report in 1969 in the United Kingdom saw recommendations in bringing all welfare services under the one umbrella and appointing a director of social services with the focus on continuity of care with the centre being family focused rather than symptom focused (Pierson, 2011). Australia’s change in government in 1972 to labour saw the rise in social reform programs.

As the governments priorities change, so too does the response to social challenges. Not for profit agencies began emerging and throughout the history of Social Work, these many organizations formed have helped to shape public policy and practice (Dulmus & Sowers, 2012). The United Kingdom became the forefront of Social Work and the emergence of this profession. Differences between the United Kingdom model and the United States were predominantly gender and religion.

The United Kingdom movement was mainly led by young protestant men while The United States settlement was dominated by young Catholic women (Huff, p. 3). The definition of non-deserving and deserving poor still stands today however the method and approach to defining this has become more refined as a professional process supported by formal education and social service organization requirements. Social Work in Australia developed later than The United Kingdom and The United States, adopting many of The United Kingdom’s models.

The United Kingdom, United States and Australia have all complemented each other with continuing development contributing their own unique input into a caring profession which encompasses the body of Social Work in attending to those in need and is an essential component of modern society today. References Benevolent Society. (2012). Retrieved from http://www. benevolent. org. au/about/celebrating–200–years Chenoweth, L. , & McAuliffe, D. (2012). In L. C. Mcauliffe, The Road To Social Work & Human Service Practice: An Introductory Text (3rd Ed) (pp. 33, 35, 36).

South Melbourne: Cengage. Dulmus, C. , & Sowers, K. (2012). The Profession of Social Work: Guided by History, Led by Evidence. Gleeson, D. J. (2008). Some New Perspectives on Early Australian Social Work. Australian Social Work, 207–225. Huff, D. (n. d. ). Retrieved from Progress and Reform: A cyberhistory of Social Works formative years: http://web1. boisestate. edu/socwork/dhuff/history/chapts/1-1. htm Industrial Revolution . (2013, April 23). Retrieved from The History Channel: http://www. history. com/topics/industrial-revolution Pennington, J. (2011, 02 17).

British History in Depth: Beneath the surface. Retrieved from BBC History: http://www. bbc. co. uk/history/british/victorians/bsurface_01. shtml Pierson, J. (2011). Understanding Social Work : History and Context. Retrieved from http://www. eblib. com Smith, M. K. (2008). Octavia Hill: housing, space and social reform’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. . Retrieved from http://infed. org/mobi/octavia-hill-housing-and-social-reform/ Wade, L. C. (1967). The Heritage from Chicago’s Early Settlement Houses. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 411 – 441.

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