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The Development Of Social Work Social Work Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The problems that came about from industrialisation proved there was a severe lack of help for those who truly needed it. No profession already existed to help these people in society, and from that social care gradually came about, progressing into social work as it is today. Industrialisation meant that everyone left the country to move into the city, as it was a lot easier to find work, however with more people in the cities this meant more social problems could easily arise. Older people and younger children were given no help or education, as they were seen as no benefit to society, as they weren’t fit to work.

From the mid 1700s Britain began to change dramatically, those who had formerly lived in the country and worked on the land, moved to the cities and sought employment in the factories. Work conditions were harsh and many were working 12 hours days on very low wages, and without laws people were exploited. Home conditions were not much better, and the large urban populations led to poor sanitary and social conditions which went on the lead to very poor public health, and high numbers of those being effected by diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The governing social policy of the time was ‘laissez faire’, leaving the caring self less citizens of society to help those worse of than them, with the policy having its roots in religious benevolence.

However laissez faire had appeared to have failed and the effects included the poor living conditions of the time. In the fight against poverty and poor sanitation the Poor Law Amendment Act (1834) and The Public Health Act (1848) were created, and this was said to be ‘..the first example of the state taking direct responsibility for the poor’ (Sheldon & McDonald, 2009, p13). The Poor Law Amendment Act was put in place to make sure that those who truly deserved relief were receiving it. The poor were separated into two categories; the undeserving and the deserving. The deserving poor received practical and financial support from charities, and consisted of those who were not physically fit to work such as the elderly, sick, and disabled. The undeserving poor were those who were fit to work but chose not to for whatever reason; these people were turned down for support from charity and voluntary services. They were forced to turn to the workhouse or the state, conditions in the workhouse were deliberately harsh, to try and deter those who we able to work to seek work instead. Workhouses soon became home to those who were not well enough to work, but were eliminated in 1930.

The Public Health Act came as a result of Chadwick’s Sanitary Report, and the aim was to improve the sanitary conditions in towns and cities. The General Board of Health had responsibility over water supplies and drainage; the first main focuses were on public places, especially hospitals. Diseases slowly killed fewer and fewer people, due to the drainage systems and clean water put into place in London following the act.

‘At first sight the Poor Law and the workhouses it introduced may seem a far cry from social wok…’ (State Social Work, BJSW, p.665, John Harris 2008) Financial and practical support provided was and still is set below that of minimum wage which therefore dissuaded people from seeking help from state intervention and instead encourages them to find employment. Today the same values still hold.

The Charity Organisation Charity (COS) was founded in 1869, to help manage the relief that was given out to the poor. The system was designed to stop charitable relief being given out to those who didn’t require it as much as others, as they were seen to be taking advantage. Only the deserving poor could receive aid from charities. The COS introduced a case work practice, which meant that those who applied for support from charities could be thoroughly assessed as to whether they were legible for help or not. A caseworker would work closely with an applicant to build up a bigger picture of their personal background to determine what action plan would be put in place. Just as a social worker would today, the caseworker visited the client and built a relationship. A client would then be referred to a local charity or voluntary organisation which would best help provide for their needs. The COS was the first organisation to introduce the idea of casework, which was later developed and expanded due to the work of Mary Richmond. Richmond’s beliefs really conveyed the importance of casework, and her ideas focused on the social theory instead of a psychological theory. Her ideas are still recognised today and are said to be the root of social work education.

Post World War I, psychiatry in social work started to play a big part. Many men returned from war with what we now recognise as post traumatic stress disorder, however a hundred years ago little was known about it. Care centres employed psychiatrists to treat these men, and from this psychiatry became much more recognised and started to play a bigger part in treatment for mental health patients. Social workers and psychiatrists focused more on psychology for their answers and a more ‘head over heart’ (Sheldon & McDonald, 2009, p.21) approach was used more widely in practices. During World War 2, over 3 million children were removed from their homes in the cities and sent to live in the country for their own safety; however children experienced adverse effects due to their separation from their parents. It was from this psychologist John Bowlby produced his theory of attachment and effects of maternal separation.

1944 saw the beginning of the Education Act, ensuring that children were entitled to education, free of charge. In the following 5 years after the end of World War 2, towns and cities were rebuilt and following Sir William Beveridge’s suggestions, a welfare state was set up, as the former welfare system was not accepted anymore by those in society. In 1948 the Nation Health Service was founded, providing care to everyone who needed it. Even though voluntary organisations were still in place, the state had eventually become the biggest provider of care.

During the 1950s the COS no longer had such a major impact upon the development of social work, as it had had previously. Times were changing for social work as a profession, and psychological theories became one of the main influences of social work practice. The COS identified individuals social problems and sought the best way to deal with them, however they stuck too strongly to their social theory that in the end it began to have less and less relevance to the real problems the poor were experiencing. An in depth understanding of the individual was the basis to good social work, according to Younghusband. She wrote that the social worker needs to understand their client as a person, their individual’s needs and relationships but must not forget the reality of the situation they are in. Before the 1950s, social work training had always been specialised in a specific area of practice, so the social worker would be specifically trained to do the job they were doing. However the 1950s saw the first general social work training scheme being set up.

The Seebohm Committee was set up in 1965 to assess the social services, in reaction to the growing pressure for a reform. The Seebohm report was finally published in 1968 stating their recommendations and beliefs of improving the social work profession. To start with the committee set up area teams, where social workers worked within one community. It stated the profession needed to ‘provide a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to the problems of individuals, families and communities’. (Seebohm Report, cited in Social Work: An Introduction to Contemporary Practice, p.58) The report is said to be ‘a major landmark in social policy’ (State Social Work, p.670, BJSW, 2008). Social work was given more status as a profession and the Local Authority Social Services Bill was passed in Parliament in May of 1970. The conservative government came into power in June 1970, from then on social work saw a massive growth.

To begin with there was a huge increase in qualified social workers, however this stirred conflict between those who had qualified before 1970, and those who qualified after, due to the difference in their training, and there failed to be an established understanding of the social work role in society. The 1970s saw the formation of the Radical Social Work Movement, which start when a magazine named ‘Case Con’ was published, which passed judgment upon social work practices, in hope to come up with a new theory of Social Work. This theory was built on the need for Social workers and clients working together to bring about social change. Rather than offering suggestions on what needed to be changed, radical social work instead just summarised the faults within social work. Consequently the movement did not change policy and practices within social work, yet the writings of the movement still played a big part in the growth of Social Work throughout the 80s.

The Barclay Committee report published in 1982 recognised three approaches to relationships between the state and those in need. The first was known as the ‘safety net approach’, with the main principle that help from the state should only be given to those who really need it, as a last resort, once again with a focus on who are the deserving and undeserving poor. With the welfare state approach it was a responsibility of the state’s to offer services to everyone. The third approached focused upon the community’s responsibility to look after each other, and this was the most popular approach to the committee. Social workers main focus should be on a certain community and having an in depth knowledge of that community. With helping those in that community they encourage citizens to care more for one another. Overall the Barclay report did not make much change to community social work.

In social works reform as a profession, marketisation and managerialism became very important, introducing new techniques such as audits and inspections. With following wider market trends and models, social work became more cost effective and sustainable, focusing on the outcome rather than the quality in which the work gets done. ‘In recent times procedures and bureaucratic practices have become the main framework around which social work practice is structured, at the expense of the professional relationship’, (Gupta and Blewitt, 2007, cited in Social Work: An Introduction to Contemporary Practice, p.5). With growing advances in technology it meant that social workers could pursue more office base practices, which had its advantages in storing, accessing and organising files and data, however it can be argued that it has had a negative effect on the client/social worker relationship.

In 2003 the Laming Report was published, after the well known case of Victoria Climbie and how she eventually died. The safeguarding of children became a priority, and it was questioned how effectively social work was doing its job. More emphasis was put onto the importance of inter professional working and communication, as it was due to the lack of communication between services that Climbie was not saved. The Children Act of 1989 was modified and The Children Act of 2004 was put into place to help protect and safeguard children.

Social work has its beginnings in voluntary based services which were mainly based on religious principles and over the last 150 years the profession has grown to what we know it as today. Although laws and policies have changed and developed over the years, social work is still based upon the same values as it was all those years ago. Social workers still do the same service, in helping clients improve their lifestyle, however due to all the laws and legislation that have been put into over the years, the way in which social workers have to do their job has changed. Today the job is less hands on as it used to be, more paper work based, and more time is spent in the office, due to technological advances and managerial direction. The relationship with the client has always been at the heart of good social work practice, and social workers strive to do their best in improving their client’s situation, no matter what their problems may be. There is still a focus on who is deserving and undeserving, and there are limitations on who can receive what services. For example the benefits the unemployed can receive are lower than minimum wage, encouraging the unemployed to seek jobs rather than rely on the state. In social work assessments always have to be carried out on the client to determine whether they are eligible for the services on offer.

In the last 10 years we have seen the development of the GSCC (General Social Care Council) which was set up in 2001, in reaction to criticisms, mainly stemming from the death of Victoria Climbie. As of April 2005 it became policy that all trainee and qualified social workers had to be registered with the GSCC. When registered with the GSCC, social workers must oblige by the codes of practice. The codes of practice are in place to show practitioners what is expected of them, and to ensure that clients are receiving the best care possible. The codes of practice of the GSCC are based on social work values developed over the years, giving us the underpinning beliefs of contemporary social work.


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