The History Of Social Work

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The history of social work demonstrates how statutory and voluntary agencies adapted to the changing social conditions and increasing societal problems as a result of influence of industrialization and urbanization (Red). Social and economic changes such as the Black Death that severed the British populations, the closure of common land for self-profit in the 1530s, and unrest and riots during the 1700s left many people in need alone and without care from their families (lecture). Industrialization and urbanization created a widespread movement toward cities, separation over wealth and classes, and caused challenges which established systems of care could not longer cope with (lecture). During the late 16th century, the population in the United Kingdom increased by 25% and widespread famine contributed to the increasing poverty rate, which called for a new system of help for the poor (black). Over almost a 400-year period, poor laws were established in the United Kingdom to provide systematic help for those facing poverty.
Within the United Kingdom, there was a division of approaches to address rising social problems (lecture). England and Whales created the Elizabethan Poor Law Act of 1601 to classify the poor into categories and allocate responsibility of care and control for these classifications. The poor law separated those who could not work versus those who would not work in three ways: the ‘impotent poor’, the aged, chronically sick, or mentally ill; the ‘able-bodied poor’, those who could work but didn’t; and the ‘able-bodied poor’ who absconded or refused work (red). The ‘impotent poor’ were housed in voluntary institutions under the care of parishes and churches whereas the ‘able-bodied poor’ were sent to statutory workhouses or ‘house of correction’ punishment facilities (red). The Poor Law Act of 1601 sought to make a distinction between individuals who were poor by no fault of their own and individuals who were to blame for there poverty, and thus putting them in the care of either the state or private sectors (red).
Workhouses were some of the most inhumane aspects of history and a “dark space in the public imagination” (red). Under public authority, these institutions had harsh conditions,
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