Tracing the origin of work with the ‘impotent poor’ under the Poor Laws, to social workers’ current responsibilities towards vulnerable people, this book introduces the reader to the way in which the identification of particular social problems at the end of the nineteenth century led to the emergence of a wide range of separate occupational groups and voluntary workers, which were sometimes, but increasingly, referred to as social workers.

Using an extended single chronological historical narrative and analysis, which draws heavily on original archival sources and contemporary literature, it addresses the changes which took place as part of the welfare state and the identification of common roles and responsibilities by social workers, which led to the formation of the British Association of Social Workers in 1970. The expansion of roles and responsibilities in social services departments and voluntary societies is analysed, and their significance for the development of social work is evaluated.

By highlighting the changes and continuities in these roles and responsibilities, this book will be of interest to all academics, students, and practitioners working within social work, who wish to know more about the origins of their discipline and the current state of the profession today.

chapter |4 pages


Focus and structure

chapter 1|7 pages

History and social work

chapter 8|33 pages

Exploring social work roles, 1963–1974

chapter 10|20 pages

Managing social workers, 1989–1997