Social Work Methods And Interventions In Africa: Charity Organization Society (COS-1869)

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Question: Charity Organization Society (Cos-1869) As It Emerged In Europe And America (Uk And Usa 1869- 1902) Played A Significant Role In The Development Of Social Work Methods.

a)Evaluate The Role Played By The Cos In The Establishment Of The Critical And Practical Social Work Methods I) Casework; Ii) Groupwork And Iii) Community Social Work And Indicate The Key Proponents And Social Reformers For Each Of The Methods

In the words of Gordon and Hamilton, “social casework which is both a tool and area of work consists of processes which develop personality through adjustment consciously affect individual by individual between man and his social environment.” Miss Richmond gives this definition of casework,” Social casework is art of doing different things for and with different people by cooperating with them to achieve at one and at the same time their own and their society’s betterment.” Thus, it is both art and science of resolving individual problems in the social area, for individual and society are interdependent and social forces influence behavior and attitude of an individual.

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According to Charlotte Towle( 1947), Charity Organization Societies was formed in 1869, the Charity Organization Society (COS1869) was intended to provide a much greater degree of coherence and coordination to the hundreds of disparate and ad hoc voluntary bodies and philanthropic groups that dealt with the poor during the latter half of the 19th century. However, the COS did not involve itself in providing financial support, but instead sought to liaise with other charities by referring “deserving” cases to them while encouraging such voluntary bodies to adhere to a set of shared principles; its role was to promote and disseminate good practice.

In particular, the Charity Organization Societies reflected the prevalent mid-19th-century individualist philosophy that attributed poverty to failings or fecklessness among the poor. Poverty was not blamed on social or structural factors, such as low wages or economic mismanagement by governments, or seen as an intrinsic feature of capitalism, but was blamed on the failings of affected individuals. At best, those in poverty were assumed incompetent in managing their incomes and household budgets; at worst, they were assumed indolent or dissolute, living immoral lives bereft of hard work or sobriety. In the latter cases, individuals were not deemed worthy of compassion or sympathy because their poverty was assumed to be entirely self-reflected through their irresponsibility and total lack of self-restraint.

In this context, the role of the Charity Organization Societies was to investigate the circumstances of those individuals and families who sought aid, and then ascertain whether they deserved such assistance, and if so, what form of charity was most appropriate. The question of whether assistance was deserved was particularly important during this time because it entailed not merely evaluations about the scale of financial hardship or poverty, but also a moral judgment about the degree of culpability. This reflected and reinforced the Victorian distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor, with the former worthy of charitable assistance and capable of salvation, whereas the latter were deemed to have forfeited any claim for help.

However, the Charity Organization Societies did not give money to those whose households it visited when they were adjudged deserving, but instead either referred them to an appropriate charity or liaised with the relevant voluntary body, as a part of the society’s coordinating role. In many cases, material assistance was not considered necessary or appropriate because the hardship experienced was attributed not to lack of money, but to lack of competence or skills in managing the household budget, and practicing sufficient frugality and economy. In such circumstances, the COS’s visitor would offer advice on how to spend their income wisely, buy food economically, and then prepare meals that were cheap, filling, and (within the budget) nutritious. Similar advice would be proffered on matters such as cleanliness and health care.

The individualist ideology that underpinned the philosophy and practical work of the COS not only denied the social, structural, or systemic origins of poverty, but also ultimately aimed to assist individuals and families to become independent and self-reliant. The relief of poverty was to be achieved not through increasing wages and/or the role of the state, but through educating the poor to live more careful, frugal, and moral lives.

In addition to reflecting and reinforcing individualism, and the concomitant distinction between deserving and underserving poor (a distinction that has been strongly revived in the United Kingdom recently in order to win public support for major cuts in welfare provision, regardless of the consequent hardship and increase in poverty), there are several other reasons why the COS was so significant. One of these concerns the class and gender acts of its work. The visitors were invariably middle-class women who advised poor, predominantly working-class, women how to manage their household budget more carefully and live more frugally. This was regardless of the fact that such visitors were most unlikely to have ever experienced such financial hardship, and so could have no appreciation of the day-to-day struggle to survive on such little money; those who enjoyed privileges presumed to advise those who endured privations.

Furthermore, the focus on advising working-class women about how to manage financially reflected the assumption that it was the wife or mother’s fault if their family suffered hunger or malnutrition, not the fact that the husband’s employer paid him an inadequate wage, or perhaps that the husband did not give his wife enough money for housekeeping out of his earnings.

The main reason why the COS’s visitors were invariably middle-class women was that in the 19th century, respectable women were not expected to work, although working class women were often driven to do so because of financial necessity. This reflected a patriarchal sexual division of labor that was ideologically and socially constructed, but nonetheless depicted as natural or biologically derived, and which claimed that women were (or ought to be) wives and mothers who remained at home to look after the home and the children, while men went out to work and earn a wage. However, there was also a cultural dimension, whereby middle-class women did not have to work anyway because they had married a man whose economic success and status meant that he could support his wife and family on his salary alone.

Yet, for some of these middle-class women, living a life of workless leisure, or even luxury, could be boring or frustrating; they were trapped in a “gilded cage.” One solution was to undertake charitable work, which was widely considered acceptable and respectable, precisely because it was unpaid. For such middle-class women, therefore, working for the COS (or any other charity under its auspices) both alleviated the boredom of idle comfort at home, and also conveyed a sense of Christian compassion or duty toward the poor. It could also be viewed as a means of inculcating middle-class values into the working class, albeit without associated middle-class incomes.

Social group work and group psychotherapy has primarily developed along parallel paths. Where the roots of contemporary group psychotherapy are often traced to the group education classes of tuberculosis patients conducted by Joseph Pratt in 1906, the exact birth of social group work can’t be easily identified (Kaiser, 1958 Schleidlinger, 2000 Wilson, 1976).

Social group work approaches are rooted in the group activities of various social agencies that arose in the latter part of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. Social upheaval and new found demands as a result of post-Civil War industrialization, migration and immigration created many individual and societal needs (Brown, 1991, Kaiser, 1958, Middleman, 1968, Reid, 1991, Schwartz, 1977, Wilson, 1976).

Some of these needs were met through group work endeavors found in settlement houses as well as religious and charity organizations (Middleman, 1968, Wilson, 1976). Additionally, group work could be found in the progressive education movement (Dewey, 1910), the play and recreation movement (Boyd, 1935), informal education, camping and youth service organizations invested in character building (Alissi, 1980, Schwartz, 1977, Williamson, 1929, Wilson, 1976).

As Clara Kaiser (1958) has indicated there have been numerous philosophical and theoretical influences on the development of social group work. Chief amongst these influences are the ethics of Judeo-Christian religions the settlement house movement’s charitable and humanitarian efforts, theories eminent in progressive education, especially those of John Dewey (1910).

According to Harriet Bartlett (1970) the two trends which came to typify early social work practice efforts centered around giving of aid or assistance to individuals and families under stress with a focus on individual treatment, as carried out by the volunteer Charity Organization Society( C.O.S) and the social reform movement, which focused on environmental change for larger groups of people as exemplified in the Settlement House Movement. The first Charity Organization Society was founded in Buffalo, New York, in 1877, it was an attempt at the scientific pro-vision of charity which began in England in 1869 (Kaufman, 1974). The C.O.S. were highly influenced by the Elizabethan Poor Laws of England. According to Kaufman (1974) the C.O.S Movement operated on four basic principles which included the need for a detailed investigation of each applicant, a central system of registration to avoid duplication o charity. More so, another basic principle included a high degree of cooperation among member agencies and lastly the extensive use of volunteers. The C.O.S’s role in groupwork was to provide assistance and relief to their own members, much like the religious orders and charities which they resembled, and were thus dominated by the belief that the causes of poverty were largely personal, due to the sloth, intemperance, or general sinfulness of the poor. The goals of the society were the rehabilitation of families who were less than self-sufficient, the education of the community in the correct principles of relief and the elimination of poverty (Kaufman, 1974). Mary Richmond was one of the most influential women in the Charity Organization Societies during this period this was through her book “Social diagnosis”, which was a milestone for social work, intervention was organized into a process-oriented procedure.

The first efforts at community organization for social welfare were initiated in England to overcome the acute problem of poverty, which led to beggary. The first effort of its kind was the Elizabethan Poor Law (1601) in England, which was set up to provide services to the needy. Another important landmarking the history of community organization is the formation of London Society of organizing charitable relief and repressing mendicancy and the Origin of the Settlement House Movement in England during1880.In fact, these movements had a major impact in the United States of America. In 1880 the Charities organization was set up to put rational order in the area of charity and relief. The major community organization activities in the United States could be classified into three periods:1) The Charity Organization Period, 1870-1917This era is the beginnings in social welfare in USA. The first citywide Charity Organization Society (COS).

This movement was started with the influence of London Charity Organization established in 1869. In USA, Rev. S. H. Gurteen, an English priest who had some association with London Charity association and had moved to Buffalo in 1873 gave the leadership to this movement. Within a short span of six years the COS had reached to more than 25 American cities. Charity organization was concerned about two things: Providing adequate personal services to families and individuals in need. Take steps to address the issues/problems in social welfare. Apart from this service, the COS also took initiatives in promoting co-operation among the various welfare agencies. From this movement of charity organization emerged many such service-oriented organizations. Social service exchange, Community welfare councils, Councils of social agencies.

b) With The Aid Of Practical Examples, Assess The Applicability Of The Three Social Work Methods In Africa In General And Zimbabwe In Particular

Casework can be applicable to a lesser extent due to lack of resources in Africa and in Zimbabwe in particular. This leads to the associations’ failure to deliver services to the lack of resources. More so, issue of corruption as the responsible authority will take advantage of the donations there by keeping them for themselves or give them to their loved ones. This results in deprivation of human rights Intervention that can be done globally and in Africa at large is for the areas to be injected with resources and capitals to start up projects that will help the poor and the marginalized societies. More so, strict measures should be taken on corruption cases, this may lead to the services being delivered in an appropriate manor. For instance, in Zimbabwe there are allegations that some top authorities has been stealing aid that is supposed to benefit the individuals who cannot take care of themselves in these hard times as we are going through hard times due the corona virus that has left many jobless due to total shutdown that has taken place. On another note, protective clothing and medication for the covid-19 that has been donated by well wishes has been taken to the elite hospital instead of benefiting the individuals who need the goods. For these reasons, of greediness and corruption, Africa at large and Zimbabwe in particular has made casework not applicable. However, it is applicable in slim chances for instance we have our own Acacian Joseph Zishiri who has been able to help an old aged woman from Mutare who stays with her four grandchildren who are still young to take care of themselves, who is also diabetic in form of groceries and medication.

Group work is applicable in Africa and in Zimbabwe in particular as it encourages the “Ubuntu” and oneness of Africans. It has helped many as people have been able to lift each other up in their businesses and planning so as to let each individual be able to provide for their families. For example, in Zimbabwe some individuals like Strive Masiyiwa has been able to donate masks and money to finance the nurses in the fight of the corona virus. More so, our own Student Representative Committee from Africa University has been able to donate some mealie meal to some families who are unable to provide for themselves in this covid-19 state. This has encouraged the oneness in the people of Zimbabwe. However, in some cases it has not been applicable due to ignorance of some individuals. The interventions that have been put forth to help the people include group works and projects that has been implemented well.

The community work is applicable in Africa and Zimbabwe in particular as the government has been able to send out people to help out the marginalized groups. It has been able to provide the people with adequate personal services and creating co-operation amongst many welfare organizations in helping the people. However, due to lack of resources and shortage of capital it has been bumpy in implementing its strategies at all times. Interventions that has been set up include the government’s encouragement to the people to start up projects for the people’s upkeep by providing them with inputs for farming and poultry projects.


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