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History of Social Work Services

It’s National Hospice & Palliative Care Awareness Month

Today we’re celebrating our Hospice Social Workers!

Even before the rise of modern European states, the church was providing social services. When Constantine I legalized the Christian Church in the 4th century, the newly legitimized church set up burial societies, poorhouses, homes for the aged, shelter for the homeless, hospitals, and orphanages. These were often funded, at least in part, from grants from the Empire.

By 580 AD, the church had a system for circulating consumables to the poor. Monasteries also often served as comprehensive social service agencies, acting as hospitals, homes for the aged, orphanages, and aid stations.

It was not until the emergence of industrialization and urbanization that the informal helping systems of the church and family began to be replaced by social welfare services.

Stephanie W, LMSW Harbor Hospice Social Worker

The practice and profession of social work is generally considered to have developed out of three strands. The first was individual casework, the second was social administration, and the third consisted of social action.

Professional social work originated in 19th century England, and had its roots in the social and economic upheaval of the Industrial Revolution. Because poverty was the main focus of early social work, it was linked with the idea of charity work. Today, it is common for social workers to find themselves dealing with consequences arising from other social problems such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination based on age or on physical or mental disability.

Most historians identify the Charity Organization Society, founded by Helen Bosanquet and Octavia Hill in London in 1869, as the pioneering organization of the social theory that led to the emergence of social work as a professional occupation.

Octavia Hill is regarded by many as the founder of modern social work. She was a moving force behind the development of social housing. She believed in self-reliance, and made it a key part of her housing system that she and her assistants knew their tenants personally and encouraged them to better themselves.

The first professional medical social workers in England were called hospital almoners and were based in medical institutions. The first professional medical social workers were hired in the United States in 1905. This approach soon spread through other American hospitals, and in 1911, there were 44 social work departments in 14 different cities.

Currently, social work is known for its critical and holistic approach to understanding and intervening in social problems. This has led, for example, to the recognition of poverty as having a social and economic basis rooted in social policies rather than representing a personal moral defect.

Adapted from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_social_work


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