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Timeline :: Charity Organisation Society established

COS pamphlet

The Charity Organisation Society (COS) was established in London as the Society for Organising Charitable Relief and Repressing Menacity. It was founded by a group of social reformers including Octavia Hill, William Gladstone and John Ruskin following a conference of charities that took place in February 1869 and was established to increase effectiveness amongst charities and to organise charitable giving. The founders believed that “indiscriminate almsgiving” did not always reach the neediest families, nor were they sure that money was being spent wisely. They set out to provide financial help through establishing local committees run by volunteers, who would register applicants for relief and establish a pattern of home visits so that a full assessment could be carried out. Similar organisations existed at this time in other cities throughout the UK and North America; an Edinburgh society predated the London one by a year. The COS made a deep impact on social work through its advocacy and codification of emerging methods. This, with its focus on the family, and upon a scientific approach provided a key foundation for the development of social work as profession in Britain.

The COS in London set up a committee on the training of volunteer workers two years later. In 1901, it approached some universities to form joint lecture committees for social workers throughout the UK. The establishment of the School of Sociology and Social Economics in London followed in 1903, then a School of Social Science at Liverpool University in 1904.

Source: Family Action website. Also see Rooff, M. (1972) A Hundred Years of Family Welfare, London: Michael Joseph and article by Smith, M. K. (2002) 'Casework and the Charity Organization Society', the encyclopedia of informal education, www.infed.org/. Last update: July 08, 2014.

See also Jones, C. (1976) The Foundations of Social Work Education, Working Papers in Sociology No. 11, University of Durham.