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The History Of Social Work

In this blog post, we take a brief look at the history of social work book-marking the major events that have contributed to the development of social work over the last 135 years. This also reflects how the previous generations of social workers have influenced the modern profession.

Wherever you are in your career, whether you’ve just left university and have recently qualified, or have been in the profession for years and are considering changing the pace of things by moving from permanent to agency, we at Portman Recruitment take care to properly understand your professional world. We believe that we should never forget where it all started, the struggles, the petitions and changes through acts of parliament, established largely due to the hard work and dedication of the modern day social worker and their precursors, that have brought us to where we are today.


1884 – NSPCC Founded.
Set up to prevent the abuse of children and to help those affected to recover.

1890 – The Lunacy Act.
Ensured the care of those who were mentally ill.

1897(-1980) National Association of Social Workers in Education Formed.

1902 (-1981) – Dame Eileen Younghusband Born.
Contributed to the development of social work systems and institutions, with her research studies, reports and lecture tours.

Notable Work Includes:

  • 1st Carnegie Report 1947: Report on the Employment and Training of Social Workers. Dunfermline: Carnegie United Kingdom Trust.
  • 2nd Carnegie Report 1950: Report of the Working Party on Social Workers. Dunfermline: Carnegie United Kingdom Trust.
  • ‘Younghusband Report’ 1959: Report of the Working Party on Social Workers in: Local Authority Health and Welfare Services. London: Ministry of Health.
  • Younghusband, E. (ed.) 1965: Social Work with Families, Readings in Social Work, 1. London: NISW/ George Allen and Unwin.
  • Younghusband, E. (ed.) 1966: New Developments in Casework, Readings in Social Work, 2. London: NISW/ George Allen and Unwin.
  • Younghusband, E. (ed.) 1967: Social Work and Social Values, Readings in Social Work, 3. London: NISW/ George Allen and Unwin.
  • Younghusband, E. (ed.) 1968: Education for Social Work, Readings in Social Work, 4. London: NISW/ George Allen and Unwin.


1903 – First University-Based Social Work Training Made Available At LSE.

1929 (-1970) Association of Psychiatric Social Workers Forms.
Formed after the establishment of a mental health training course at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

1935 – British Federation of Social Workers Forms.

  • Becomes the Association of Social Workers in 1936.
  • Becomes the Association of Social Workers in 1951.
  • Set up the Standing Conference of Organisations of Social Workers, which entailed the disaffiliation of its member organisations, in 1963.
  • It merged with 6 other organisations in 1970 – including the Association of Child Care Officers, the Institute of Medical Social Workers and the Association of Family Case Workers – to become the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), which has become a great source of campaigns, research and support for social workers, both in the UK and abroad.

1954 (-1968) Society of Mental Welfare Officers Forms.
Formed by the merger of the National Association of Authorised Officers and the Mental Health Workers’ Association, with the hope of bringing improvements to services and training.


1961 – National Institute for Social Work Forms.
Operated throughout the UK and abroad, supporting users, practitioners, managers, policymakers and their associated organisations with the provision of a range of services aimed at achieving excellence in practice and management in social work.

1962 – The Council for Training in Social Work (CTSW) Forms.
A UK-wide organisation, which was responsible for promoting, approving and ensuring the quality of education and training for social work staff.

  • Renamed the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW) in 1970.
  • Ran until 30 September 2001, with its functions passing to 4 new Care Councils:
    General Social Care Council (GSCC) – Closed in 2012.
    Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
    Care Council for Wales (CCW)
    Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)

1968 – Social Work Scotland Act
Further provision for promoting social welfare in Scotland, covering topics such as restrictions on the prosecution of children for offences and the establishment of children’s panels.

1971 – Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust Forms.
An initiative established by the BASW, providing financial support to social workers.


1975 – BASW creates their ground-breaking Code of Ethics, which all members of the organisation are required to sign. This covers ethics in social work, human rights, professional integrity and risk management, among other key areas.

1988 – The Diploma In Social Work Replaces CQSW.

2000 – Framework For Assessment Of Children In Need.

2008 – Social Work Task Force Established.

  • Following the death of Peter Connelly, The Department for Children, Schools and Families’ 2020 Children and Young People’s Workforce Strategy suggest the creation of a social work taskforce to advise on reforms within the industry.
  • Ministers announce the formation of the Social Work Task Force to help improve recruitment, training, and the overall quality and status of the profession in England, to be chaired by Moira Gibb.
Source: BASW

2010 – College of Social Work Established.

2012 – The State of Social Work Survey (BASW)

  • Reveals that 85% of social workers have experienced cuts to their services.
  • Caseloads have become unmanageable for 77%.
  • 88% believe that lives could be at risk due to cuts to the services.

2017 – The Children and Social Work Act
Aims to improve support for looked after children, promote the welfare and safeguarding of children, and improve social worker regulation.

2019 – On Monday, 2 December 2019 Social Work England will take over from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as the new regulator for social workers.

2019 – The year you join Portman?

Call us today on 0161 327 0936 to learn more about us, our range of roles and why we are the best social work recruitment consultancy out there.

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