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With reference to changes in Government policy and ideologies of welfare, debate the significance of the shift from Victorian Pauper to 21st century service user and its impact on social work practice and values.
This assignment has used a historical timeline of Governmental changes to policies and laws as a background to debate the shift from Victorian Pauper to 21st century service user. The divide between the rich and poor has always been an issue that different governments have faced, dealing with it differently, for example Clement Attlee’s labour Government in 1945 introduced the welfare state to give every British citizen cover, regardless of income or lack of it. Those who lacked jobs and homes would be helped.
The definition of a Pauper according to the Collins dictionary is someone who is relatively poor, in comparison to the general population or historically eligible for public charity.
The definition of a service user is someone who at some point uses or receives health or social care services. (General Social Care Council)
The term service user is criticised, as critics Adams et al (2009) believe it focuses on one element of the individual, implying dependency, without taking into account other aspects and argue that the term places the service user in a disempowered position in their relationship with a professional, with power residing with this professional. The National Network of Service Users: Shaping our lives however sees the term service user as positive, it’s an individual who uses the services, they confer power creating a stronger voice and having a greater ability to shape services. (Levin 2004)
Modern British social policy has its foundation in the Poor Laws, dating from 1598 to 1948.
The Poor Law (1601) provided a compulsory poor rate and helped set the poor to work. However as the Parish was the basic area of administration, and laws were enforced differently from parish to parish with no set standards of care causing inconsistencies between areas. The Poor Law amendment act (1834) modified the existing system. Poor Law Unions were introduced, parishes were grouped together, and those Unions would be the responsibility of a Board of Guardians. The Guardians were responsible for the administration of poor relief for their locality, rather than leaving the responsibility of administration in the hands of individual parishes and townships. Workhouses were introduced and encouraged, one workhouse in each union to give poor relief. This Act stated that no able bodied person was to receive any other help other than in the workhouse. The purpose of the workhouse was to let individuals enter and leave as they liked and they would receive free food and accommodation, however as time passed concern grew with regard to the seeming ‘overuse’ of the workhouse. As a result the eligibility criteria for entry to the workhouse was then altered. Life in the workhouse was to be made as cruel as it was outside. The wretched existence offered, and the stigma attached to being an ‘inmate’, ensured that only the truly deprived used them. A ‘jail style’ system of segregation for men and women meant that even families had to be separated, altogether different from 21st Century social work values which espouse a stronger commitment to keeping families together, with child protection services and child welfare agencies providing support to ensure family preservation. (Payne, 2005)
It was in 1869 that The Charity Organisation Society (COS) was formed to unify the many smaller sources of relief and make provision more efficient and effective. The COS perceived that charitable assistance was needed and believed that their aim was to reach all families, but were unsure how the money had previously been spent. COS set out a scheme of financial help, introducing local committees, who then raised funds and distributed these to families in need. Similar to many charities today, there are still many families who don’t ask for help because of religion, language, pride or because they are not aware that help may be available. (Family Action) The aim of COS was to persuade charities to converge their resources, which might then be distributed more systematically. However the individuals helped had to be deemed capable of becoming self supporting. Worthiness was considered before any charitable help was given. Those who weren’t considered worthy were left to destitution, the Society effectively deciding that as they deemed there to be no hope for their redemption, that to help them would be a waste of limited resources which would be better spent elsewhere with individuals or families who could subsequently lift themselves out of poverty and dependence. (Campling, 1996) The COS model was pioneering in taking into account the consequences if they helped every individual, as they thought this would lead to dependency and exaggeration in order to receive money.
COS was also formed with the objective of achieving a decrease in the charitable expenditure as a result of greater efficiency and the economy of scale, and in this sense the COS reflected the wider ideology of the industrial revolution. Current Social Work objectives similarly seek to achieve ‘value for money’, with the Audit commission defining value for money as the best possible balance of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Whilst the 21st century social worker endeavours to deal fairly with the needs of everyone, nevertheless, the distribution of needs is uneven and changes constantly. To ensure quality is consistent care plan reviews are monitored and service users may be involved in quality circles, engaging them in deciding what’s best. Direct payment schemes are also offered to a minority group of service users to let them decide on and customise their own social care. The main problem Social Services face is the potential impact of the dynamic and variable economic and political environment in which they must function. Whilst trying to provide individualised care packages they have to ensure that it’s effective in respect to cost. Also there is growing recognition that a number of minority groups may be excluded from accessing services such as Social Work services and, also those services which have previously not been provided in culturally appropriate ways. (Making ends meet, 2010) Appropriate steps will therefore need to be taken to enforce anti discriminatory practice and anti oppressive practice, when considering how to provide help in accessing services for minority groups.
The COS quickly found that more than financial aid was needed to help paupers. Emotional and other practical help was also required, for example help with finding employment. COS volunteers were trained to offer such additional help and, therefore, the formal training offered by COS can be seen as the forerunner of modern social work training and qualifications. They adopted an approach which attempted to analyse the problem. Working with the individual and family to help them achieve a lasting solution so all could be kept in their familiar environments. This approach was very time consuming, and the approach the worker took to investigate the individual was very objectionable.
This approach is the basis of the current Social Work casework approach which is now highly criticised. Holman (1993) suggests that the casework approach only masks social and political obligations in individual’s lives, therefore helping to maintain their situation. There are now other approaches that focus on reducing inequality. Which investigate the social and political reasons as well as the individual’s as to why they are in poverty. A new manifesto for Social Work now highlights the need to use a collection of approaches as the need to combat poverty and discrimination is greater than ever.
Many who tried to use the COS principles found it difficult to disregard individuals who needed help. Other approaches were latterly introduced to help more individuals. The Settlement House Movement (1884) was one of these. Its principles focused on university volunteers working with the poor in their spare time, offering education. Its aim was to achieve mutual respect between the classes. This approach focused on empowering the poor, helping them to help themselves. Society also benefitted from this model. It focused on a more structured analysis of poverty and its impact on human behaviour by practising interventions at a community level. This is needed now to help small communities and the individuals within it. The nature of social work practice then changed and focused on individuals. A significant element was hearing client’s voices and the incomparable knowledge of the professionals working with them to help whichever way they could. (Adams et al, 2009)
Using these models the Government laid the basis of the future social services. The major concern being that all areas should be given the same services. These new services were provided away from The Poor Law to evade the association. Current Social Work still has its inconsistencies, however the White Paper Tackling Health Inequalities Programme of Action (Department of Health, 2003), focuses on a number of ways to equalise access to healthcare, for example working with people who face overlapping health problems for instance older people who have ill health and are in poverty. Social Workers are focussing on secondary prevention, as this type of prevention can impact more individuals.
A major report produced regarding the welfare of individuals was the Beveridge Report (Department of Health, 1942). This report focused on how Britain could be rebuilt after the war. In 1945 labour was elected and promised to introduce a welfare state. The welfare state involved introducing new services. These included the National Health Services and Housing Acts. The welfare state was produced to encourage the provision of services for the public. (Laybourn, 1995)
Glasby (2005) looked at previous reforms and how the future would be in adult social care. It evaluated all important reports to see how social work could be improved. One report that impacted policy and practice during the 1960’s was the Seebohm report (1968). This report highlighted the problems of poverty and was tasked to review the organisation and responsibilities of the Local Authority Social Services in England as well as to consider what changes were desirable to secure an effective family service. (Seebohm, 1968, pg11.) Prior to this report Social Work was spread across various Local Authorities and different Government sections. This caused inadequacies in the quality of provision. Access was very difficult. For example, range and quality of provision of services were inconsistent also the Seebohm Report highlighted a poor coordination of information between these services. The report recommended “a new Local Authority department providing a community based and family orientated service, which would be available for all”. When this recommendation was brought into action new Social Services Departments were formed. The Seebohm Report did highlight potential problems. It stated that having separate departments for children and adults might subsequently make it difficult to treat the family’s needs as a whole.
The Barclay Report (1982) looked into the role of a social worker. In its opening line it stated that too much was expected of social workers. It found that it was a profession that was confused about its role and because of intense media scrutiny was struggling with work load. It found that there was an ongoing need for social workers to fulfil many functions including promoting community networks, working with other services and acting as an advocate for clients. The report did criticise social work departments for “taking a reactive stance towards social problems, dealing with those needs which are forced upon their attention but failing to develop overall plans which link the voluntary, statutory and private services in an area into a coherent plan” which is still a problem today. (Department of Health, 1982, pg.38) Social Services Departments find it difficult to help every need as they don’t have limitless resources. They need to use other services and work with them closely, the help of Interprofessional education will ensure that other professionals have an understanding of social workers’ roles. The Barclay Report produced very similar recommendations to that of the Seebohm Report (1968). Although it highlighted that the community approach may have more success now, as there is a greater capacity for individuals to be more autonomous and make their own decisions. The community approach focuses on the local community and social workers would observe individuals in the context of their community. This approach uses local centres and pools resources, creating less impact on the Social Work services so their resources can be spread further.
Reports such as these have highlighted how important good social work is, and how much it is needed. There are many problems involved in the profession. There is still stigma attached to the term service user just as there was to the term pauper. Whilst researching the different acts and welfare ideologies that have been introduced throughout the timeline I have used (see paragraph one, page one) I have found that individuals still have problems accessing help. There are families who still may be disinclined to ask for help because of the stigma of doing so. New approaches have introduced service user involvement by asking them what help they want and defining the quality of help they receive. A recent report by Beresford, Shamash, Forrest and Turner (2007) researched service users’ future vision for adult services. They found that the process of accessing social care was frequently negative for service users furthermore the assessments were very dependent on the quality of the staff carrying it out. All social workers should work to one high standard. It shouldn’t be a lottery of if you get a good one or not. A universal tool could be implemented so that all service users were asked the same questions and could highlight their specific problems and needs whilst using the tool. Service users also highlighted the fact that access to their social worker was low and many of the service users questioned had gaps in their services making them feel insecure.
Reports researched for this assignment have all found that service users know what they want and can easily highlight the problems they face or have had previously. One report found that while welfare bureaucracy has been condemned by governments for a long while, service users still identify problems (Shaping Our Lives, 2007). There is still social exclusion. Social Services Departments may contribute to it as they help individuals just enough, finding the quickest way to help them not necessarily the best way in the long run because of finite resources. Using different approaches, for example the community approach would help at different levels so less emphasis is on Social Services Departments resources. Vast improvements are still needed. For example child poverty is getting worst. The Report Monitoring poverty and social exclusion (2009) found that children who live in low-income households, where at least one adult works, is at the highest it has ever been. This increase has affected the Governments child poverty targets. The recession affected reaching the targets greatly. It is vital now to recover from the recession but also to recover from underlying problems that were there previously before the economic downturn began.
Reports like Shaping Our Lives (2007) found that service users feel more responsible and confident about the help they are receiving when they have been more involved in the decision processes. A report by Beresford et al, (2007) found that service users would like a watchdog with a board of service users and professionals so they could be involved in judging the quality of care they receive.
The Race Equality Act (2006) sets the context for anti- discriminatory practice within which social workers operate. However, whilst it could be critiqued that some progress has been made as a result with respect to those of different culture and religion, continuing inequalities would suggest much more progress remains to be made.
To conclude social work has changed significantly and progress to help all individuals needs to continue. However as a profession it needs a larger voice to talk about the problems they face therefore getting extra help to ensure that service users and paupers have even fewer similarities. There has been a great shift from pauper to service user. Service users have much more freedom and rights now. Albeit there are still similarities which need to be focused on to improve the services available. Social Service Departments also need to refuse to let policies be imposed when they don’t improve on what is already implemented. Rights are now benefitting service users but we need to ensure this continues.
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