Podcast: A Century of Councils for Voluntary Service

VAHS Special Seminar commemorating a century of Councils for Voluntary Service on 23 January 2010 

Speakers: Keith Laybourn (University of Huddersfield), Colin Rochester (Roehampton University), Oliver Blaiklock (IHR) and John Lansley (former employee of the LCVS)

Keith Laybourn, University of Huddersfield
 The Guild of Help and the New Edwardian Philanthropy, c.1904-1919
Powerpoint slidesHandout


In 1904 the Bradford City Guild of Help was formed and rapidly formed the basis of a new movement, which extended to 82 other areas, in a movement which was referred to as the New Philanthropy. It was the basis of a movement which eventually, and substantially, flowed into the National Council of Social Services (1919). Unlike its predecessors, such as the Charity Organisation Society, it aimed at establishing a more community and scientifically-based approach to philanthropy that emphasised the need to work with the state, to conduct detailed social casework, and to check the level of charitable relief that was being provided. The autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies that emerged emphasised the need to work within the community to deal with poverty, if not destitution, by drawing the citizens of the community into providing guidance and essential relief to the poor. ‘Not alms but a friend’ became the motto of all the guilds though they varied in their provisions to the poor. All organised helpers to provide relief but after that there were varied attempts to provide unemployment registers, TB clinics, baby packs, voluntary school feeding arrangements, and many other forms of relief. In the end, of course, they recognised that they could not provide solutions to poverty that only the state, with its vast resources, could provide. Nevertheless, they worked with the state in supporting the Liberal reforms of 1906-1914, and during the Great War formed part of the local representation committees that emerged in each community to organise the war effort. Although often attacked by the socialists for their failure to attract widely from across the social classes in the community, and referred to as ‘Gilded Helpers’, they did attempt to deal with poverty through a new partnership between voluntary societies and the state.

Colin Rochester, Roehampton University
‘The Service of the Community is best fulfilled by Communities of Service’: A Hundred Years of the London Voluntary Service Council


This paper will trace the development of London’s key voluntary sector development agency from its foundation in 1909 through its reconstitution as the London Council of Social Service, ten years later, and its more contemporary manifestation as LVSC since 1979. It will review the ways in which the organisation has carried out its key functions and discuss how it tried to achieve a balance between the different demands they made on LVSC’s resources and attention. The three key sets of activities are:
1.    co-ordinating and developing local voluntary action through the creation of councils of social/voluntary service and in other ways; and providing support and services to voluntary and community sector organisations
2.    identifying social need and developing innovative responses to need and filling or helping to fill gaps in provision; and
3.    influencing the creation and implementation of policy.
This account of the development and work of the organisations will be set against a background of the development of social policy and institutions nationally and in London. The paper will conclude with a reflective and critical overview of LVSC’s achievements and an attempt to gauge its impact on the people of London during the 100 years of its history.

Oliver Blaiklock, IHR
On the development of the Citizens Advice Bureau


Despite extensive research on the history of the Second World War and its impact on British society, the actions and contributions of voluntary organisations have only recently come under historical scrutiny. This paper utilises the records of the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux (CAB) to explore the relationship of the voluntary sector to the wartime State, and of the State to society in mid-twentieth century Britain. By describing and analysing the origins of the CAB and its philosophy and functions in wartime, the paper provides an opportunity to consider the ways in which the voluntary sector adapted to the expansion of the State, and to a changing cultural, political, social and economic environment. Finally, the paper will analyse and assess the role of the CAB in shaping continuity and change in British society during wartime.

John Lansley, former employee of the LCVS
On the Liverpool Council for Voluntary Service


Liverpool was second to Hampstead to respond to the call by the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws of 1909 to set up a Council for Voluntary Aid. But this was part of a wider movement to co-ordinate the exceptionally large voluntary sector in Liverpool, which goes back to the establishment of the Central Relief Society in the 1850s. There are various reasons for the strength of the voluntary sector in the city – the fact that it only developed into a large town in the18th, and expanded very rapidly in the early 19th century, with a single controlling group of merchants; the extremes of wealth and poverty, and the sectarian duality which virtually resulted in a two-pillar establishment of voluntary services. The paper will describe the factors surrounding the establishment of the CVA, and the role of the city business elite in its development. The paper will mainly concentrate on the earlier years, but will also consider how the CVS changed in the 1960s and 1990s, and suggest some reasons for these changes.

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