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The History of Social Work in the Caribbean

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The History of Social Work in the Caribbean

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  • October 1, 2004
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Social work and Social Welfare has been with us from as far back as the 1600's and it has always been, and has continued to be a response to human needs. In order to understand its historical development, it is necessary to examine the significant factors, which has influenced its evolution. It can be said however that factors such as the establishment of the Elizabethan poor laws, the emancipation of slavery and the social unrest which resulted in the 1937 riots, played a momentous role in the development of social work and social welfare. This was evident throughout the Caribbean since they share a common colonial history for a number of years, according to John Maxwell. For the purpose of this essay, specific focus will be on two of its English speaking countries namely Barbados and Guyana.

Compton and Gallaway (1990) defined Social welfare as "an organized set of norms and institutions through which we carry out our collective responsibilities to meet needs." In unison, Zastrow (2000) noted that the goals of social welfare were to "fulfil the financial, health, and recreational requirements of all individuals in a society." This also included the enhancement of social functioning of all age and class groups.

Social work can be considered as an applied science of helping people achieve an effective level of psychosocial functioning. The National Association Of Social Workers (NASW) makes the definition even more precise when they refer to it as a way "to enhance human well being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty."

It can therefore be said that social welfare encompassed social work and that they are primarily similar at the level of practice. Skidmore et al (1991, .p. 4) reinforced this key point by noting, "social services came first, and the methods of social work developed out of social welfare."

The earliest...