The history of social work and the Welfare StateSocial Work

The history of social work and the Welfare StateSocial Work

Week 2:The history of social work and the Welfare StateSocial Work
Intervention via public issues/ and the social policy context
The history of social work is invariably linked to the history of the provision of services via
religious and charitable organisations and a variety of State facilitated responses to social
problems. The following list gives some indications of ways in which different States over time
have contributed to assisting those in need.
How we got to where we are – A very brief and potted history of welfare
B.C. 500 – Philanthropy (Greece) – distribution of money for public goodB.C. 100 –
annona civica tradition (Rome) – Expectation that those with grains and food would
support the poor1066 -> Feudal England – support provided by a feudal lord or the
church to those in servitude (serfs) who were not allowed to own land1100 – the Roman
Church issues the Decretum – moral responsibility for those with resources to care for
those without1601 English Poor Law – Local parishes administered funds from local
taxes for giving money to people who could not work, finding work for able-bodied
people, and organising some form of foster care or apprenticeships for orphaned
children1650 – the Protestant ethic – selfdiscipline, frugality, and hard work are
rewarded; people do not thrive because they do not follow these values
The notion of deserving and undeserving poor was thoroughly entrenched in the Poor Law
and the Protestant work ethic. A distinction was made between the ‘worthy’ poor- those
unable to work because of sickness or disability, or orphaned children- and those who were
assumed to be fraudsters & malingerers, often referred to as the ‘able bodied’ poor. Only
those people who fulfilled certain obligations deserved relief.
Activity (online)
Under the heading deserving and undeserving poor, write your thoughts about the following
two points.
Does the idea of deserving and undeserving poor survive today? Think of examples to
illustrate your pointWhen you hear the word ‘charity’ what does it conjure for you? If
someone said you were a ‘charity case’, how would you feel?
Now readChenoweth, L & McAuliffe, D (2008) The Road to Social Work and Human
Services Practice. Cengage: South Melbourne. Read Chapter 2.
Australian history of social work
Early 1800-

early 1900s Friendly Visitors
1830s – Colonial Charity (Australia) 1860 – 500 inmates in Melbourne Benevolent
Asylum 1887 – Kew Cottages established (institution for intellectually disabled)1889 –
The Settlement Movement (USA) – beginnings of community work
Throughout the 19 th century, charities continued to provide the majority of
support for the disadvantaged

1908 – Aged and invalid pensions introduced federally

These payments were means tested, moral character test, citizenship residence
requirements – you needed to be 25 years old, non-Aboriginal, and be judged to
be of good character)

1929 – Social Work education in Australia began

First trained welfare workers were employed in Australia, known as ‘almoners’
(Someone who gave out alms) – they were employed in hospitals
1939 – Diplomas of social studies gained University affiliation


1942 – Widows pension and Age pension for Aboriginal people introduced1945 –
Unemployment, sickness benefits, special benefits introduced1946 – Australian
Association of Social Workers created
1972-75 Universalism: Whitlam Reforms
Focus on equity, participation, opportunity

Expenditure increase health 40%, social security 23%, housing and community 14.2% No means
test over 70s pension Single parent pension Medibank, universal health cover Removal of
university fees Community health centres and Aboriginal health services
Late 70’s-80s – downscaling of institutions and a move to community based services

Growth of human service courses/case management
1990s – Rise of market welfare; competition; Privatisation

Outcomes & standards were measured and became a focus of funding
Managerialism – jobs were broken into tasks rather than being staffed by people
with specific qualifications

2000s –

Ongoing impact of managerialism Rise of International social work

The Welfare StateReading Mendes, P., The historical and political development of
the welfare state – Chapter 1, from Australia’s Welfare Wars Revisited: The
Players, the Politics, and the Ideologies.

The term ‘welfare state’ refers to a society where the state takes on some responsibility for the
welfare of citizens. This week we begin by building on the information about the welfare state to
see how it impacts on current social work practice and the issues social work addresses.
The social context of social work
Social work operates within the social, political and economic context of the times.Societal
attitudes to social problems changes over time – think about un-partnered women having
children; drink-driving; family violence. At various times, things are accepted, reviled, tolerated
or not an issue at all.These attitudes are often value laden and history bound and politically
Mendes, P., Leading the backlash: The Neoliberal critique of the welfare state, Chapter 2,
from, Australia’s Welfare Wars Revisited: The Players, the Politics, and the Ideologies.
In 1870 Social Darwinism gained influence. Herbert Spencer’s thesis was that "survival of the
fittest" should apply to human society and that poverty was merely an aspect of natural selection.
Helping poor people, it was believed, would make them lazy and non industriousIf people were
given any relief from poverty they would lose motivation to help themselves. Write down your
ideas about whether there is any merit in the idea of a free market economy without state
intervention; or the liberal idea that inequality is functional for motivation to work?
Current welfare state concernsReading
Current topics that can be easily found in daily newspapers include: treatment of refugees,
Indigenous issues/ the Intervention in NT, drug addiction & legalisation; gambling…

Activity (Online)
Write down some of your thoughts about what you have heard or read about a particular current
social issue in recent times, then discuss some of your thoughts with your fellow students online.
Thinking about social Problems
The tutorial will now turn to thinking about social problems Private troubles or Public
Before you move on into the next part of the tutorial read,
Mullay, B. (2002). Theoretical and conceptual considerations In Challenging oppression:
A critical social work approach (pp 1-15). Ontario: Oxford University Press.As you read

through the next section of the tutorial focus on connecting the ideas in the readings with
the concepts being provided in the tutorial…
What is a social problem?
It is a condition that affects a significant number of people (in a way that is considered
undesirable) which is societal in nature. Mullaly (2002) adds that it is a problem about which
something can be done.The questions that arise when considering social problems are
When does an individual trouble become a social problem?What are the causes of social
problems?How are social problems constructed?
We will look at each of these in turn.When does a trouble become a social problem/public
Write down ideas about when a trouble becomes a social problem.Some of the things you might
have considered are:
Capturing the public attentionScale of the trouble, how many people are
affected?Considered undesirableWhen there is an action taken by those experiencing
themWhen people are believed, by others, to have a problem for example – mentally ill,
juvenile crimeThere is also historical and social factors – the way issues are understood
changes over time and according to context
Social justice and social order are starting points for the consideration of private issues
becoming public issues


Academic LevelCollege (1-2 years: Freshmen, Sophomore)
Subject AreaHumanity
Paper Type Coursework
Number of Pages1 Page(s)/275 words
Paper FormatMLA
SpacingDouble spaced
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