Recipients include families faced with loss of income, desertion, or illness; children and youths whose physical or moral welfare is at risk; the sick; the disabled; the frail elderly; and the unemployed.
When possible, services are also directed toward preventing threats to personal or family independence.
In the advanced industrial societies the personal social services have always constituted a “mixed economy of welfare,” involving the statutory, voluntary, and private sectors of welfare provision.
Although the role of personal social services is crucial, they account for only a small proportion of total welfare expenditures.
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Social service, also called welfare service or social work, any of numerous publicly or privately provided services intended to aid disadvantaged, distressed, or vulnerable persons or groups.
The voluntary charitable agencies of the time differed on the relative merits of deterrent poor-law services on the one hand, implying resistance to the growth of statutory welfare, and on the provision of alternative assistance to the needy, coupled with the extension of statutory services, on the other hand.As societies developed, however, with their patterns of dependence between members, there arose more systematic responses to the factors that rendered individuals, and thus society at large, vulnerable.Religion and philosophy have tended to provide frameworks for the conduct of social welfare.From the 1870s the Charity Organization Society and similar bodies in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere held strongly to the former option, and their influence was widespread until the outbreak of World War II.The settlement movement in Britain and the United States drew voluntary workers into direct contact with the serious material disadvantages suffered by the poor.