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  • Subject Name : Social Work

Charity Organization Societies

The origin of the Charity Organization Society (COS) movement finds its inception with the advent of urbanization and the gradual diminishing of the way of living which was based on resource sharing among an entire community as well as providing reciprocal support which was customary in the earlier somewhat rural settlements. Urbanisation had, as part of its inherent character, rampant instances of industrial mishaps, epidemics, joblessness, impoverishment, the collapse of the institution of family and other similar socio-economic issues. During a time of crises, such as spells of joblessness, illness and bodily limitations caused due to either ageing or the presence of any physical infirmity, individual persons as well as standalone families, i.e. which did not have either kinsfolks or the requisite monetary resources were left with hardly any choices, such as applying to the government for some sort of assistance, make pleas to individual aiding establishments or implore strangers to gain some help. The evil of what came to be known as “urban poverty” intensified considerably during times when a region was plagued by the onset of economic depression, discord with workmen or the labour class, or another, different kind of notable calamity which stripped innumerable physically capable men and women of their sources of breadwinning. Standalone groups, which acted without any coordination or particular plan of action, came into being for improving the conditions brought on by the existence of urban poverty which was a consequence of speedy industrialization.

The principal focus of the COS movement remained the involvement of a more logical and scientific methodology for managing as well as curbing the ever-growing problems of urban reliance and the sudden growth spurt hit by privately-run altruisms in addition to increasing instances which established the fact that more and more persons, as well as families, were learning to con the system and obtain unjust benefits by appealing fruitfully to various organizations simultaneously, seeking assistance. Through emphasising on a more logic-based approach, the COS began framing an elaborate network of exploration, recordkeeping, along with regulation of applicants seeking support. This working methodology consequently gave rise to internal-organizational attempts at recognizing and synchronizing the resources, as well as the activities, are undertaken by private charity organizations and the subsequent instituting of centralized record-keeping bureaus which were charged with the role of accumulating data about individuals and families which received support. These very advances came to be assimilated into ‘the casework method’ in the field of social work, as well as the functioning of Social Service Exchanges. Established in 1887, the Charity Organisation Society of Melbourne was brought about for assistance as regards the coordination of all charitable establishments present in the city of Melbourne while simultaneously imbibing the notion of independent help to the underprivileged (Ambrey et al., 2019).

The 21st Annual Report published by the Society held the objective behind the setting up of such institutions to be “strengthening a man's backbone rather than provide him with crutches”. The establishment of the society has also, notably, given rise to social services as a full-time career option within Australia, as well as the entirety of the developed world. In the late 1940s, the organisation was renamed as the “Citizens Welfare Service of Victoria”, mirroring a shift in the approach employed by it towards casework counselling. Presently, the organization goes by the nomenclature of “Drummond St. Relationship Centre”, and its objectives include the following:

  1. Encouragement for carrying out charitable work while simultaneously endorsing co-operation among the various organisations.
  2. Scrutinizing shams as well as instances of professional deception, and discouraging indiscriminate donations
  3. To investigate every application seeking support for ascertaining how and if at all an application can be assisted.
  4. Provision of required relief during an inquiry or pending arrangements with charitable institutions or assistance from other sources.
  5. Keeping labour tests to provide the needy with means of earning sustenance and shelter available to applicants able and willing to work.
  6. Creation of a lending fund.
  7. To register every case for future reference and to maintain a Central Register of help given by all relieving agencies.

Australia does not possess a devoted legislative framework for regulation and management of charitable foundations, and information available through public mediums as regards the Australian charity sector is meagre. There is an absence of any form of a public database concerning foundations compared to charities generally and any material in possession of the revenue office which would throw light at the working of the said foundations remains out of reach in the usual affairs of the business. The information at hand allows the researcher to reach the conclusion that Australian charitable foundations are witnessing a stage of sluggish yet sturdy progression concerning both, their numbers as well as their magnitude, peppered with a growing number of philanthropic offerings from the hands of certain prominent individual citizens, allowing the attraction of greater public notice towards the philanthropic sector (McGregor-Lowndes & Williamson, 2018).

Established in late 2004, as an integral fragment of the Finance and Administration portfolio, the Australian Government, through its Department of Human Services shoulders the duty to carry out the advancement of the policy relating to the delivery and supply of services, while also ensuring sufficient access to community services, health services as well as other services and fund provisions. The Human Services Legislation Amendment Act, which was enacted in 2011, amalgamated the services offered via Medicare Australia (Health services at either minuscule or no cost), Centre-link (Social Security Payments) and CRS (Aiding people with disabilities) into the said department.

The introduction of charitable organizations has made quite an impact on the manner in which the issue of poverty was handled by the Australian government, impacting trends from the early 2000s until the present day. As a reflection of its impact on the community, the total rate of impoverishment prevalent in “the land down under” fluctuated among 12 to 15% through the period stretching from early 2000 till the end of 2017. There was a noticeable downslide witnessed in the occurrence of instances as well as the overall prevalence of conditions of poverty, dropping down from 13% at the inception to just 11.5% near 2003, although it did display a steep skyward incline, climbing up to about 14.5% in 2007. After the advent of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 as well as an uptrend in pensions the following year, poverty plunged to about 12%, with a minuscule bump up to 13% in 2017. Further, in 2009, a surge of $32 per week was approved to the single rate of pensions. This addition played a significant role in the reduction of poverty during 2007-08 and then through 2009-10. However, an accurate measure of the said effect cannot be calculated accurately owing to the presence of other issues such as prevailing economic conditions and rent rates.

Child poverty showed fluctuation with greater intensity, growing from 14% to 18%, from 2000 through 2016. It displayed a trend akin to the cumulative rate of poverty before the Crisis, shrinking from 18% in 2000 to 14% in 2004, and again going skyward, back to 18% by 2008. Nonetheless, after the onset of the Crisis, child poverty turned an entirely different leaf, when taken with overall poverty. There was barely any average shift from 2009, as although it decreased from 17% to 16.5% in 2014, it ended up climbing back up to 17.5% by the end of 2016. These shifts were consequences of the prevailing monetary circumstances, just like the cumulative rate of poverty, although variations to the social security system post-Crisis have caused direct effects as to the growth of child poverty. This was specifically correct as regards single-parent families. The allowance which is provided by the government of Australia, against which a majority of the single-parent families lean, i.e. “Parenting Payment”, was not included within the increment in pensions made in 2009. The situation was aggravated by the downgrading of 80,000 single parents from the better-paying Parenting Payment to the slightly more economical “Newstart Allowance” in 2013 (Victorian Council of Social Services, 2020).

Most people living below the poverty line in Australia rely on social security for their income. The type of housing in which people live – rental or owner-occupied – also impacts poverty rates. The second ACOSS report published in 2020 found that over half the number of individuals falling under the poverty line were dwelling in rented accommodation and a meagre 15% of the said population comprises of home-owners who lack the presence of a loan against the house. The driving force which acts as a determinant of the economic status of the elder population remains to be their housing status, of which, about 40% are paying rent for their accommodation and are aged 65 and above, yet falling under the line of poverty, in comparison to an insignificant 10% of the entirety of population which is aged 65 and over.

Comparing the population on the basis of different kinds of family in existence, single-parent families represent the greatest shares of impoverishment, pegged at an alarming 35%. The children in the said families, who represent a portion of poverty amounting to about 45% have a much stronger chance of living in poverty, compared to children who are members of couple families and are representative of a rate of poverty under 15%. The lack of a means of earning income is not one of the reasons for the prevalence of poverty in Australia, as is evidenced by the fact that 7% of people who have a paid source of employment also live under poverty in Australia. This percentage is further comprised of families with child members, persons who rely solely on upon part-time incomes, as well as individuals having higher expenditures relating to housing. In light of the fact that a majority of the population lives in wage-based homes, this demographic forms a whopping 38% share of the cumulative population living in conditions of poverty.

The “Foodbank Hunger Report” (2018) discovered that a comparable proportion, i.e. 15% of Australians are consuming lower quantities of food compared to their bodily requirements owing to either a lack of financial resources or other means to obtain nourishment. Throughout the entirety of Australia, there exist individuals unaware of the source of their next meal. In 2018, over 4 million Australians were faced with a situation where their resources of sustenance were exhausted and they were lacking the money to purchases more. Where food converts to an optional commodity, a majority of individuals are compelled to either reduce the size of their meals or alternately, skip a meal minimum once in 7 days so that their food stores last longer. People who sought aid from “The Salvation Army’s Moneycare Program” in 2018 were required to prioritise accommodation and conveniences thereby reducing their spending on sustenance, conveyance and health as compared to other Australians. A survey by the Army witnessed that out of 30,000 clients taken over a decade, beginning from 2008, there was a two-fold increase in the share of people bearing the burden of a loan against their wages. Consequently, the monetary value of the said debt had tripled and borrowers were forced to pledge over 10% of their salaries to repay the said loans (The Salvation Army, 2018).

A reading of the “ACOSS & UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership 2nd Report” (2018), brings to light underlying realities regarding poverty, such as the fact that those people who experience poverty most intensely comprise of individuals unable to find paid employment, thus forcing them to rely on aids from the government, such as “youth allowance” and “Newstart allowance”. The Aboriginal populations of Australia show greater concentrations of income poverty compared to their European counterparts. Throughout the country, over a quarter of the Aboriginal people continue dwelling in conditions of poverty, and this proportion goes further skyward, touching nearly 50% in the more remote groups. Despite having work, shockingly, almost a million Australians who rely on their wages to be their main source of revenue continue living under conditions of poverty. As per a Centre for Future of Work publishing from May 2018, it was shown in 2017 for the foremost time that lesser than 50% of all people who had employments were involved in paid full-time employment in addition to privileges to claim leaves (Carney & Stanford, 2018). Relying on income support and renting in the private market also increases the risk of poverty, for example, the poverty rate for people aged over 65 is 11.6% but if privately renting, this rises to 43.4% (National Sustainable Development Council, 2019).

The prevailing economic conditions in Australia, therefore, warrant the presence and indispensable requirement of Charity Organization Societies and other providers of humanitarian charity and aid. Besides, the growing population, especially the younger ones, along with an upswing in the number of single parents and their ever-growing needs for food, shelter, and clothing in addition to other additional requirements to lead a life of comfort spells out the urgent requirement of the Australian government to focus their efforts on providing better and greater human services, and to promulgate, within the community, a sense of attaining independence in all spheres of life, be it economic, social or otherwise. The present efforts and programmes in place do not seem to be sufficient, as can be seen from the information found in public records as well as through surveys and various studies conducted by numerous organizations and institutions. Therefore, the presence of the said Charity Organization Societies has made an impact on the administration, nudging it to initiate several aiding programmes to alleviate children, families and the younger adult population out of the clutches of impoverishment and a dearth of the most necessities for leading a normal life, not to mention the loss of childhood that this nascent population is forced to endure because of an absence of the means necessary to achieve something along the lines of a decent standard of living.

References for Charity Organization Societies

Ambrey, C. L, Parsell, C., Spallek, M. & Robinson, RN. (2019). An investigation into repeat requests for charity: Evidence from the St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland, Australia. Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 48 (1).

Australian Network on Disability. (2020). https://www.and.org.au/members.php/42/department-of-human-services

Carney, Dr T. & Stanford, Dr J. (2018). The Dimensions of Insecure Work: A Factbook. The Australia Institute. Centre for Future Work.

Davidson, P., Saunders, P., Bradbury, B. and Wong, M. (2018), Poverty in Australia 2018. ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No. 2, Sydney: ACOSS.

Foodbank Hunger Report. (2018). https://www.foodbank.org.au/wpcontent/uploads/2018/12/2018-Foodbank-Hunger-Report.pdf

McGregor-Lowndes, M., & Williamson, A. (2018). Foundations in Australia: Dimensions for International Comparison. American Behavioural Scientist, 62(13), 1759–1776. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764218773495

Poverty in Australia. (2020). Victorian Council of Social Services. http://povertyandinequality.acoss.org.au/poverty/

The National Sustainable Development Council. (2019). Transforming Australia: SDG Progress Report.

The Salvation Army. (2018). Money care 10 Years on – A Decade of Challenge and Resilience.

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