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Timeline :: Macadam Review published

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Elizabeth Macadam published her review, The Universities and the Training of the Social Worker, in 1914. This short publication of 12 pages provides a useful contemporary summary of the state of social work education at that time.

Elizabeth Macadam was born in 1871 near Glasgow. She worked at the Women’s University Settlement in Southwark, in London, before coming to Liverpool in 1902 to run Liverpool’s Victoria Women’s Settlement, in the working-class area of Everton. Macadam went on to become part of the new Liverpool university course, along with her close friend Eleanor Rathbone. In 1919, she left Liverpool for London where she became secretary of the newly-established Joint University Council for Social Studies. She published The Equipment of the Social Worker in 1925;  The New Philanthropy: a study of the relations between the statutory and voluntary social services in 1934; The Social Servant in the Making: a review of the provision of training for the social services in 1945 (all published by G. Allen and Unwin, London).

The Universities and the Training of the Social Worker begins:

'Social work is so vague and elastic an expression that its use is only justified by its great convenience. As used in this paper it includes not only the many forms of philanthropy, but all kinds of State and municipal effort directed towards the improvement of social conditions' (page 1).

Looking forward, she identifies the need for many more workers as a result of the recommendations of both the minority and majority reports of the recent Poor Law Commission,  and the need for much greater interagency cooperation especially between Insurance Committees and Friendly Societies under the new National Insurance Act. Macadam points to the beginnings of a new profession:

'Since the majority of these openings are of recent growth, one may say that a new career or profession for men and women has been created - one which may perhaps best be compared to the practice of medicine. The analogy holds in several ways. The social worker tries to do for the disease of the body politic what the physician does for physical disease – to diagnose it, to cure it if possible, at least to alleviate the suffering it causes…In both, there must be those who search fotr causes and try experiments as well as those general practitioners who are absorbed in case work upon prescribed lines' (page 2).

The rest of the paper makes a case for education for social workers. As she writes:

'In some of the large provincial cities the local University already provides for the teaching of the doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect, even the dentist, farmer, and dyer: why not also of the social worker?' (page 3).

Macadam outlines the university education that already exists, for example in Liverpool, where a school of social science began in 1905, and soon after a social study course started in Birmingham, then similar courses began in connection with the Univeristies of Bristol, Leeds, Glasgow and others. The schools differ in name, she suggests, and sometimes in method, but their aims are the same:

1) 'They train workers for voluntary or salaried social work, and grant a diploma to those candidates who reach a certain degree of proficiency' (page 4);

2) 'They provide instructions in social questions... for those who come into contact with the problems of poverty' (page4); and, importantly, she includes 'interested citizens' here*;

3) 'They act as centres for investigation into social conditions in towns where this need is not otherwise provided for' (page 4).

*Macadam elaborates further on the next page, where she says how important it is not simply to train social workers, but to spread 'sound, reliable information and habits of careful thinking among such important sections of the general public' (page 5).

Macadam goes on to describe the Liverpool course in more detail. She emphasises the central importance of practical training and she sees living in a university settlement as helpful, especially for students who are not familiar with living in a poor district. She calls for scholarships to support students in training and funds to set up schools of social science on a firm base 'not only as a training ground for the professional worker, but as centres of social study for the general public' (page 11).

She ends by calling for learning for learning's sake: 'The keynote of our training should be to inspire the desire to go on learning and the importance of an open mind and of ready adaptability to change. The rest will always lie in the personality of the worker' (Page 12).