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Social Work and Social Welfare: The Organization of Philanthropic Resources in Britain, 1900–1914

  • Michael J. Moore (a1)


Late Victorian and Edwardian social reform has been studied in recent years in order to clarify that important transitional era when new state resources were being called upon to help redress the most glaring abuses which comprised the condition-of-England question. Most of these studies have emphasized the politics of social policy and have also subsumed the tangled and competitive world of philanthropy. But philanthropists were prominent in the politics and practice of social welfare. In his study of Edwardian social policy, Bentley Gilbert distinguishes three organizations as characteristic of “scientific social reform”: settlements (inspired by Canon Samuel Barnett), the Fabians, and the Charity Organization Society. His analysis of each concluded that “professionally-minded social work,” as represented by the C.O.S., least typified the transition from old to new attitudes about social policy. David Owen's examination of English philanthropy supports Gilbert's conclusions concerning the C.O.S., and less detailed surveys of social policy also cite that agency as representative of a philosophic individualism which rejected the policies necessary for reform. All agree that the charitable community called attention to many defects in the British social system, but they leave readers with the impression that it generally opposed state sponsored remedies for those ills.

It is the concern of this essay to show that the “professionally-minded” world of Edwardian philanthropy was, like the state, developing new agencies and reorganizing its resources to help meet the massive and diverse welfare needs of the twentieth century.



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1. Gilbert, Bentley B., The Evolution of National Insurance in Great Britain: The Origins of the Welfare State (London, 1966), pp. 40, 52; Owen, David, English Philanthropy, 1660-1960 (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), p. 516; Bruce, Maurice, The Coming of the Welfare State (4th ed.; London, 1968), pp. 179, 201–02; and Fraser, Derek, The Evolution of the British Welfare State (London, 1973), Ch. 6; de Schweinitz, Karl, England's Road To Social Security (Philadelphia, 1943), pp. 151–52.

2. Owen does not mention the Guild movement, and neither does Woodroofe, Kathleen, From Charity to Social Work in England and the United States (London, 1962), nor Madeline Rooff in her new study of the Charity Organisation Society, A Hundred Years of Family Welfare (London, 1972.)Mowat, Charles Loch, The Charity Organisation Society, 1869-1913: Its Ideas and Work (London, 1961), sees the Guild movement as an off-shoot of C.O.S. philosophy which quickly joined with the latter after realizing their common interests. This was not the case, see below Note 26. Brasnett, Margaret, in Voluntary Social Action: A History of the National Council of Social Service 1919-1969 (London, 1969), speaks of the Guilds, but sees them primarily as parts of the general background of the foundation of the N.C.S.S. The last writer to deal seriously with the Guilds was Attlee, Clement in The Social Worker (London, 1920), and his single chapter concentrates on the charitable philosophy of the Guild movement.

3. Elizabeth Macadam labelled the partnership of public and private resources “The New Philanthropy” in her book of the same title (London, 1934). The most accessible source of information on this theme is Owen, Ch.'s 18 and 19. Although he accurately describes the role of private social work as the “junior partner” of the state, his examination is primarily concerned with the post-World War I era. Other bits and pieces of this story lie in some of the essays in Mess, Henry al., Voluntary Social Service Since 1918 (London, 1947), and in Bourdillon, A.F.C. (ed.), Voluntary Social Services: Their Place in the Modern State (London, 1945). The partnership has been further studied by Mencher, Samuel, “The Relationship of Voluntary and Statutory Welfare Services in England” (Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, 1957); and by Carter, Eyre, “The Partnership Between the Statutory and Voluntary Social Services in Postwar Britain,” Social Service Review, XXXIII (June, 1949), 158–75. Margaret Brasnett gives the fullest exposition of this theme in her history of the National Council of Social Service, the agency which epitomizes this partnership.

4. Quoted in Young, A. F. and Ashton, E. T., British Social Work in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1956), p. 98.

5. The principles of charity developed by the C.O.S. are fully discussed in Woodroofe, From Charity to Social Work, Ch. 2, and Rooff, A Hundred Years of Family Welfare, Ch.'s 2 and 3.

6. See Practicable Socialism,” Nineteenth Century, XIII (April, 1883), 554–60. Barnett was particularly concerned that the state develop a scheme of superannuation. Soon after making this proposal he left the C.O.S. Executive Council in protest at its refusal to consider his view. The text of his often mentioned criticism of the Society, “A Friendly Criticism of the C.O.S.,” appears in the Charity Organisation Review, (hereafter, C.O.R), X (August, 1895), 338–42.

7. Its opposition was based on an exceptionally rigid belief in the virtuousness of its principles. In the person of its spokesman, Charles Loch, this derived from idealist philosophy, as Rooff points out in A Hundred Years of Family Welfare, pp. 42-43. “For what are principles?” Loch informed his colleagues in 1913. “Not pale diluted abstractions, but the expression of greatest realities, thoughts that hold first place, princely and ruling thoughts….” Report of the Annual Winter Conference,” C.O.R., XXXIII (Feb. 1913), 8687.

8. See Gilbert, , Evolution of National Insurance, pp. 7280, Semmel, Bernard, Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social-Imperial Thought 1895-1914 (London, 1960); and Searle, G. R., The Quest for National Efficiency: A Study in British Politics and Political Thought 1899-1914 (Berkeley, 1971).

9. Elberfeld men were legally bound to accept almoning. The penalties for refusal were severe, but few were prosecuted as almoning was voluntarily accepted. See Reports on the Elberfeld Poor Law System and German Workmen's Colonies.” Parliamentary Papers, 1888, LXXX, C. 5341, 1415.

10. Owen, , English Philanthropy, p. 463; and Simey, Margaret E., Charitable Effort in Liverpool (London, 1951), pp. 110–11.

11. It was the C.O.S., locating its own inspiration in the work of Rev. Thomas Chalmers in Glasgow in the 1820s and 1830s, that insisted that Chalmers' philosophy had influenced Elberfeld practice. This connection of Elberfeld and Chalmers has been repeated by historians such as Woodroofe, Rooff, Owen, and Mowat, but it is questionable. The report of Mr. J. S. Davy for the Local Government Board says that he was told that the inspiration for Elberfeld had come from a similar, but unsuccessful experiment in Hamburg in the 1780s. Neither of the other visitors to Elberfeld, including Loch, report any connection between it and Chalmers. See Reports on the Elberfeld Poor Law System….”, Parliamentary Papers, LXXX, C. 5341.

12. Mr.Hannewinkel, to the Council, C.O.R., XV (Jan., 1904), 43.

13. The articles were collected and published as a book; see Sutter, Julie, Britain's Next Campaign (London, 1904).

14. Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and the Relief of Distress, Minutes of Evidence,” Parliamentary Papers, 1910, LXXIX, Cd. 5608, 967; Milledge, Walter, “Guilds of Help,” C.O.R., XX (July, 1906), 48.

15. There are two points of interest to be raised here. Walton's, Ronald G.Women in Social Work (London, 1975) is a thorough examination of the role and status of women in social welfare in the last hundred years when their contributions to the development of social work rapidly expanded. There is no evidence in Guild of Help activity to deny his conclusion that women did not initiate the formation of social service agencies, and that although they were among the first to train professionally at universities for careers in social welfare they were advanced to visible leadership positions only slowly before 1914 (pp. 27-30). In the Guild's, as in the C.O.S. and other such agencies, women held positions commensurate with what were thought to be female interests and abilities: lesser administrative posts such as deputy secretaries, visitors to the poor, hospital almoners, child care officers, and probation or education supervisors. There were, of course, exceptions. As voluntary agencies developed wholly paid staffs, women tended to fill positions previously held by men so that by the early 1920s women were conspicuous in their leadership.

The second point concerns working class participation in such voluntary organizations. There were working class men in the C.O.S. who acted as initial referents and conducted preliminary inquiries of cases, but they were seldom mentioned in the daily affairs of the C.O.S. unless they were clearly separated from their social superiors on membership lists (see Mowat, , Charity Organisation Society, pp. 2728). The Guilds, however, did not differentiate between their working-class and middle-class “Helpers” and made something, though not a great deal, more of their participation as part of their desire to associate with the whole community and to remove the stigma attached to charitable assistance. See “Report to the President of the Local Government Board on Guilds of Help,” by Snowden, G.R., Parliamentary Papers, 1911, LI, Cd. 5664, 15-16 (hereafter, Snowden Report). Indeed, the Bradford socialist Fred Jowett congratulated his hometown Guild on its work in 1913 while a sceptical Beatrice Webb witnessed his remarks from the audience. See Cole, Margaret I. (ed.), Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924 (London, 1952), p. 16.

16. “In a word, the Guild cannot, and does not wish to be a mere relief society,” declared the Bradford Guild at its first annual meeting. Help, I (October, 1905), 2. Total success in this desire was not realized. Only four Guilds had no relief funds; others raised or were given large sums as at Sheffield and Birmingham, but most dispensed less than £100 in a year. See Snowden Report, 17.

17. Most Guild councils operated with twenty to thirty members, and were usually chaired by the Lord Mayor. The largest council, with sixty-three members, was in Birmingham. See Annual Report, City of Birmingham Aid Society (1914), p. 5.

18. Report of Proceedings, National Association of Guilds of Help, (hereafter, Report, N.A.G.H.), 1908, appendix.

19. Ibid., 1911, appendix. The largest number of Guilds were located in Lancashire (15) and Yorkshire (16), but they spread from Glasgow south to Devonshire and east to the Isle of Wight and Essex. The seventy Guilds of Help operating in 1911 were located in twenty-nine counties. Interested readers may inquire of the author for full details.

20. Masterman, N., “The Guild of Help Movement,” C.O.R., XX (Sept., 1906), 141.

21. Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and the Relief of Distress,” Parliamentary Papers, LXVII, Cd. 4499, 161; Snowden Report, 19.

22. Masterman, N., “The Guilds of Help in Relation to Provincial Charity Organisation Societies,” Miscellaneous Papers, C.O.S., July, 1906, p. 4.

23. Wakefield, E. W., “The Growth of Charity Organisation in the North of England,” C.O.R., XXIV (July, 1908), 40.

24. Report, N.A.G.H., 1908, p. 22; one of the Guild movement's chief attractions was thought to be its acceptance by the working class. See Snowden Report, 16.

25. Proceedings of the Council,” The Reporter (private organ of the C.O.S.), 7 Jan. 1908, p. 5; C.O.S., Register of Charity Organisation and Relief Societies in Correspondence with the London Charity Organisation Society (1907), pp. 89. Another spokesman deplored the inability of the Birmingham C.O.S. to “control and turn … to account” the formation of the Guild based City Aid Society in that city; see Masterman, N., “Guild of Help Movement,” C.O.R., XX, 147.

26. A misconception arising, probably, from the equation of Guild and C.O.S. casework practice led Mowat to state that the C.O.S. accepted the Guild movement as “friend rather than a rival,” Charity Organisation Society, p. 150. Helen Bosanquet's extensive early history of the Society totally ignores the Guilds except to say they were welcomed. See Bosanquet, Helen, Social Work in London, 1869-1912 (London, 1914), pp. 397–98.

27. Proceedings of the Council,” The Reporter, 22 April 1912, p. 3.

28. Loch, C. S., “The Spirit of Enterprise,” Charity Organisation Society Occasional Paper No. 2, (hereinafter, C.O.S.O.P.), fifth series, 1913, 3, 1011; Annual Charities Register (London, 1912), p. 331; Loch, C. S., “The National Insurance Bill,” C.O.R., XXX (Aug., 1911), 121–22; see also Woodard, Calvin, “The Charity Organisation Society and the Rise of the Welfare State,” (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1961).

29. Francis, E. G., “The Probable Effects of the Insurance Act on the Work of the Guilds of Help,” Report, N.A.G.H., 1912, pp. 1724; L. V. Gill and D. C. Keeling, “The Effect of the National Insurance Act on Organised Voluntary Work,” ibid., 1914, pp. 22-36.

30. Walter Milledge, “The Future of the Guild: How to Give it Permanence and Authority,” ibid., 1914, pp. 22-36.

31. If the C.O.S. interest was to promote cooperation and to spread sound casework principles, this visitor said, then surely the Guilds of Help should have been invited to send representatives to a conference to which Americans had been invited. Proceedings of the Council,” The Reporter, 22 June 1908, p. 2.

32. C. S. Loch to the Council, “Proceedings of the Council,” ibid., 24 June 1912, p. 2.

33. The name was changed from “The Society for the Organisation of Charity and Repressing Mendicity” to “The Society for the Organsation of Charitable Effort and the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor.” See Mowat, , Charity Organisation Society, pp. 166–70, and Bosanquet, , Social Work in London, pp. 9597.

34. Loch, C. S., “The Spirit of Enterprise,” C.O.S.O.P., 1011.

35. Proceedings of the Council,” The Reporter, 10 Nov., 1913, p. 5; Report on the Annual Winter Conference, 1913,” C.O.R., XXXIII (Feb., 1913), 89.

36. See Kuenstler, Peter (ed.), Community Organization in Great Britain (New York, 1961).

37. This may be because the definition of community organization as a social work technique has only recently been studied in an attempt to classify its functions; see Woodroofe, , From Charity to Social Work, p. 57. The method has been more fully explored in the United States. In Britain it has been practiced more than studied, but this deficiency is being remedied; see, for instance, Kuenstler's book and numerous publications listed by the National Council of Social Service in Some Books on the Social Services, a regularly revised pamphlet. Three histories of community organization agencies have appeared: Poole, H.R., The Liverpool Council of Social Service, 1909-1959 (Liverpool, 1960); Lipman, Vivian D., A Century of Social Service, 1859-1959: A History of the Jewish Board of Guardians (London, 1959); and Brasnett, Voluntary Social Action.

38. Times, 24 June 1937, p. 18; on Nunn's career see Anon, , Thomas Hancock Nunn: The Life and Work of a Social Reformer (London, 1942).

39. Annual Report of the Hampstead Council of Social Welfare (1911), pp. 1718.

40. The work of the Hampstead Council of Social Welfare and its antecedents can be studied in its successive Annual Reports; in Nunn, T. H., “1900-1926,” London Supplement to the Social Service Bulletin, (Nov., Dec. 1926, and Jan., Feb., April, 1927); and in the memorandum Nunn appended to the report of the Poor Law Commission (see below note 41).

41. Memorandum by Mr. T. Hancock Nunn as to the Functions and Constitution of the New Public Authorities and its Local Committees, with a Note upon the Hampstead System of Co-operation by Means of a Council of Social Welfare,” Parliamentary Papers, 1909, LXVII, Cd. 4499, 679-711.

42. Poole, H. R., Liverpool Council, pp. 78. The Liverpool Council of Voluntary Aid which D'Aeth founded in 1909 associated itself with the National Association of Guilds of Help.

43. Grundy, S. P., “Casework and Policy: A Synthesis,” Report, N.A.G.H., 1913, pp. 519.

44. D'Aeth, Frederic G., “The Social Welfare Movement,” Economic Review, XXIV (Oct., 1914), 412–23; T. H. Nunn, “Voluntary Workers at Newcastle,” ibid., XXIV (July, 1914), 273-82.

45. The full proceedings of the Newcastle meeting are in Report, N.A.G.H., 1914.

46. Memorandum on Steps Taken for the Prevention and Relief of Distress,” Parliamentary Papers, 1914, LXXI, Cd. 7603. D'Aeth, Frederic G., “War Relief Agencies and Guild of Help Movement,” Progress: Civic, Social, Industrial, X (Oct., 1915), 140–47; Playne, Christine E., Society at War, 1914-15 (London, 1931), Ch. 1.

47. The proceedings were published as Conference on War Relief and Personal Service (London, 1915). The committee was composed of representatives of the N.A.G.H., C.O.S., C.S.W., L.R.C's, S.S.F.A., and S.S.H.S. See “Report of the Special Committee on Central and Local Councils of Social Service,” November, 1918, London Council of Social Service Archives; and Poole, Liverpool Council, p. 30. While this committee met to cement relations with the state, the voluntary bodies were also coming closer together. In 1916, the Guilds of Help agreed to adopt the structure of Social Welfare Councils, prefacing their complete merger with the National Council of Social Service; and the C.O.S. resolved in 1918 to cooperate fully in establishing such councils in every London borough.

48. See Johnson, Paul B., Land Fit for Heroes: The Planning of British Reconstruction, 1916-1919 (Chicago, 1968).

49. Forty Sixth Annual Report of the Local Government Board,” Parliamentary Papers, 19161917, XXX, Cd. 8697, 14; Poole, , Liverpool Council, p. 31; Brasnett, , Voluntary Social Action, p. 17.

50. On 22 January 1975 Britain's first charity stamp went on sale at all G.P.O. offices. Costing 1½p more than the normal 4½P rate, the surplus goes to the National Council of Social Service. This development builds upon the over thirty-five year old practice by the state of channeling public welfare grants through the N.C.S.S.

Social Work and Social Welfare: The Organization of Philanthropic Resources in Britain, 1900–1914

  • Michael J. Moore (a1)


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