After frustrating years in social work, I came across an article I wished I’d seen when I was in school about social work in the l9th century. In those days social workers saw some of the poor as improvident and irresponsible. If a man came to a social agency hungry, he had to chop wood to get a meal. If a woman came, she had to sew to get a meal. This sorted out those who wouldn’t work, and made those who would, feel they had done something to earn their meal.
If a person needed further aid, his background was checked and he was categorized as:
When giving short term relief, the charity gave: in small quantities, the minimum, what was least susceptible to abuse, less than what the person could get by working, and for the shortest period of time.
When the relief was long term, the charity would:
In those days, knowing when not to give assistance was seen as important as when to give it. This also helped fund-raising efforts, as donors knew their money was used efficiently.
These practices continued until the l890s when the ‘Social Gospel’ emerged, claiming:
The l960s accelerated this. Welfare was given on the basis of entitlement, not need, with the result that the poor were worse off, with less hope, less pride, less reason to work, and greater resentment over being dependent.
Welfare has broken up families, set fatherless boys on the streets, and polarized those who work against those who don’t. Bad charity (welfare) has driven out good. The list goes on. We’d do well to study the past.