Founded in 1869, the Charity Organization Society (COS) made a deep impact on social work through its support and codification of emerging methods. This, with its focus on the family, and upon a scientific advancement provided a key basis for the development of social work as profession in Britain. The Charity Organization Society came into being largely as a reply to the competition and overlies occurring between the various charities and agencies in many parts of Britain and Ireland. The general lacks of cooperation between organizations not only direct to duplication, it also involved what was seen at the time as indiscriminate giving.
Pioneers of the Charity Organization Society saw two urgent requirements: that self-respecting families who were struggling to keep themselves from destitution should be helped and encouraged, and that charities should be organized and coordinated, so that the best use could be made of resources.
The essence of the Charity Organization Society’s technique was thorough investigation. They argued that visiting should only be assumed for a specific purpose, and at the invitation or with the consent of the client. They also looked to a ‘follow through’ – considering that a case was fruitfully completed and what could be learned from it.
The background of the Settlement House movement is the Industrial Revolution: a world distorted overnight by machines, mass-producing problems up till then unknown in scale and kind. factories, immigrants working long hours for low wages in dangerous conditions, people living in congested, stinking, disease-ridden slums, cities run by corrupt and inefficient bosses created an alien, impersonal, and progressively more artificial world. In 1884, an Anglican clergyman in the London slums, Samuel Barnett, initiated a group of students to the needs of his own parish in the first settlement house, Toynbee Hall. Barnett’s idea was simple: university men would live in the slums –as an outpost of education and culture– cooperating across class lines to bring about social reform. The idea multiplied, and by 1911, there were forty-six social settlements in Britain.