In Britain, the United States, Germany, and, later, Japan, leading charities worked in conjunction with poor-law and public assistance authorities, an approach endorsed in 1909 in the majority report of the British Royal Commission on the Poor Law.
The first schools of social work, usually run by the voluntary charitable agencies, appeared in the 1890s and early 1900s in London, New York City, and Amsterdam, and by the 1920s there were similar ventures in other parts of western Europe and North America and in South America.
Where necessary, the services provide substitute forms of home life or residential care, and play a key role in the care and control of juvenile delinquents and other socially deviant groups, such as drug and alcohol abusers.
In the advanced industrial societies the personal social services have always constituted a “mixed economy of welfare,” involving the statutory, voluntary, and private sectors of welfare provision.
Social services generally place a high value on keeping families together in their local communities, organizing support from friends or neighbours when kinship ties are weak.The social services have flourished in the 20th century as ideas of social responsibility have developed and spread.The basic concerns of social welfare—poverty, disability and disease, the dependent young and elderly—are as old as society itself.The laws of survival once severely limited the means by which these concerns could be addressed; to share another’s burden meant to weaken one’s own standing in the fierce struggle of daily existence.As societies developed, however, with their patterns of dependence between members, there arose more systematic responses to the factors that rendered individuals, and thus society at large, vulnerable.