1. Social welfare has been changing ever since the Elizabethan Poor Law which was introduced in 1601. This set the foundation for social welfare for those people unable to work due to age, disability, or had a physical or mental weakness. There were two groups of people but only one would be considered worthy for the welfare assistance. The worthy included widows, orphans, elderly, and people with disabilities. They were considered worthy because their circumstances were out of their control. Unworthy were those unmarried women, single adults who were able to work, but considered unworthy because they were not putting in the effort to work. (Hansan, J.E.,2011)
Our social welfare system today is influenced by this law. Our society is still providing welfare for those that are disabled, low income or have met other state guidelines. However not all states have programs or resources in place to encourage people to get off the welfare system. This can encourage people to continue to depend on the welfare system instead of gaining the confidence to be independent in society.
When comparing the Elizabeth Poor Law to the NASW Code of Ethics again I go back to one of the values I choose in week one’s discussion question. Value: Social Justice, Ethical Principle: Social workers challenge social injustice. Social workers are there to “challenge social injustice. Social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people. Social workers’ social change efforts are focused primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice. These activities seek to promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers strive to ensure access to needed information, services, and resources; equality of opportunity; and meaningful participation in decision making for all people.” (Ethics & English, 2020)
Ethics, C., & English, C. (2020). National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Retrieved 24 July 2020, from https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
Hansan, J.E. (2011). English poor laws: Historical precedents of tax-supported relief for the poor. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved 24 July 2020, from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/programs/poor-laws/
2. The Poor Laws were originally created to support those in need as a way to maintain the economy. However, the Poor Laws only supported those who were deemed incapable of working. This set limits and stipulations on who qualified for assistance. Additionally, the Poor Laws set the precedent of who should take care of those in need stating family and local communities should assist “able-bodied” people needing help while the government would only assist those unable to work (or only offer assistance for a set time period until they were able to work again).
Wehrmann and McClain (2018) state that, from 1935 to the 1970s, the United States federal government began to support those in need by launching and funding programs, including block grants for states and Title XX programs, Supplemental Security Income benefits, and expanding Medicaid and Medicare to cover more citizens. Unfortunately, the following decade was full of biases towards the poor which led to program cuts, tax cuts to the wealthy, and deregulation of legal rights and protections (Wehrmann & McClain 2018). This widened the gap between the rich and the poor. More recently, it seems people have attached negative biases to those in need, separating federally assisted needy to the deserving and the undeserving. “There was a shift from blaming victims to punishing them” (Wehrmann & McClain 2018, p. 280). The public opinion now sees the majority of the poor as deserving to be poor due to their own life choices and/or stealing government funds by “working the system” instead of picking themselves up to get a job.
The NASW Code of Ethics (2020) explains the importance of social justice: “Social workers’ social change efforts are focused primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice…Social workers strive to ensure access to needed information, services, and resources; equality of opportunity; and meaningful participation in decision making for all people.” Regarding this value of social justice, Poor Laws should be assisting those who need help regardless of the reason they require the help. There should be policies in place, free from stigma and judgement, to help those who have ended up in dire situations climb out of them by connecting them to resources, information and/or services.
National Association of Social Workers (NASW). (2020). Retrieved from http://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English.
Stern, M. J., & Axinn, J. (2018). Social welfare: A history of the American response to need (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Wehrmann, K.C & McClain, A. (2018). Social work speaks: National Association of Social Workers policy statements (11th ed.). United States of America. NASW Pre
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