Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Introduction to Social Welfare

By Sudipa Sarkar
Development of Social Welfare Services since Elizabethan Poor Laws

The Elizabethan Poor Laws were passed as a result of increasing numbers of poor in Great Britain. At initial days, the lords were responsible for taking care of their tenants till the feudalism came into existence and the tenant farmers started losing their lands as a result of the revolution (R. E. Asher, 1957). Thus they wafted into the cities and towns, few among them had the specific skills to employ for their living, whereas, as the number increased, the problem of pauperism turned out into a serious national problem (H. Kraus, 1960). To cope with this difficulty, the first attempt had been taken as an endorsement of voluntary alms to be gathered at each community setting, which, in the course of time, proved to be ineffective in solving the issue (A. C. Marts, 1961). By that time, an act was passed to discriminate between criminals and poor by integrating the requirement for the punishment of the vagabonds and relief of the poor (S. Mencher, 1967). At the year 1601, the ‘Poor Law’ passed with a clear definition of ‘poor’ with an enunciation of services that they were to obtain (J. F. Handler, 1972). This legislation is considered to be the primary foundation for the current social welfare system currently existing in Great Britain (E. W. Martin, 1972).
The Elizabethan Poor Laws (1601) is the first extensive and effective effort that had been taken to identify the dependents in order to provide them special attention for each group within a community framework. The dependent poor was being classified among three major groups as an application of the poor laws (W. I. Trattner, 1974) –
(I) Impotent poor: unable to look after selves, include, aged individuals, children and ills.
(II) Able-bodied poor: being unable to find work – cycled through long term unemployment, or lacked specific skills. Relief might entail for this group in the form of money or job.
(III) Vagrants or Beggars: unwilling to work whereas had the ability to get into the job. This type of individuals primarily considered as people needing punishment, and often placed into the ‘house of correction’.
As an application of the law, there was a tendency to migrate for the poor towards more generous townships, which eventually led to the Settlement Act (1622), also known as Poor Relief Act (1622), confirming the relief meant to provide to the established residents of a community, which was determined by birth, marriage and apprenticeship. In this act, the pauper applicant had to prove a ‘settlement’, unless they had sent back to the next township nearest to their birth place.
In modern era, the Elizabethan Poor Law had been criticized for various reasons. During the onset of 19th century, the dissatisfaction with the system raised on the top mainly because the extra financial burden for implementation as well as perceived encouragement of underlying problems incorporating the fact of letting more people into poverty, while helping those already in poverty. The English jurist, philosopher and legal and social reformer stated for a castigatory and disciplinary approach to social problems, whereas the English demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus stressed on the issue of overpopulation and the development of illegitimacy in the context of social welfare in the light of poor laws. The Report of the Select Committee on the Poor Laws (1817) argued that the poor law itself applied as a result of poverty itself.
Treatment of Oppressed Group in United States
The prevalence of discrimination of the treatment of white and non-white throughout United States is quite evident. According to James Baldwin (2nd August, 1924 – 1st December, 1987), being a black costs a lot in order to spend a smooth life, with high population rate, unjustified submission to whites, maltreatment received from the people belonging to ‘high group’, dysfunctional family, poverty, impoverishment. He, being an important American author, used to establish a platform characterised with ‘racial equality’ throughout his life. David Wessel argued that racial discrimination in US still at its action. He coined the comment made by Devah Pager, the sociologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, that the in the low wage entry level market, racial discrimination vestiges as an obstruction, where affirmative action pressures even do not work properly. The stereotyping plays a crucial role in the selection of employee in the market place, entailing injustice and inequality all over characterizing factors such as limited employment opportunities, segregation, and prevalent poverty with high illiteracy rate along with poor access to health care.
The report published by The Guardian of Britain dated on 9 October, 2004, the average net possessions of a white family are around US $88,000 as per the statistics said in 2002. This is near about eleven times of a Latin American family, or approximately fifteen times of an African-American family. Various researches conducted on this particular aspect showed that the individuals belonging to the minority ethnic groups are basically biased against in job market. Also there is a great effect of racism observed in the university level as well exhibiting fascist slogans and posters sponsoring the superiority of whites over the coloured ones. Moreover, the racial discrimination has made social conflicts at its stake by promoting racial prejudice directing at the black people, as a consequence giving an increased rate of crimes (The China Press, 2004). The report published by the US Department of Justice, Nov 2004, stated that the prevalence of racial prejudice is quite obvious in judicial context as well with a statistics saying that the coloured receives more severe punishment than that of the white for a given crime.
Influence of Trouble in Mind by Leon F Litwack

In his book ‘Trouble in Mind’, Mr. Leon F. Litwack portrays the dark illustration of the black community and its development and how it preserved its integrity even while under continuous assault from hostile whites. This book acts as a witness of horrifying element of legal and racial discrimination prevailing in the South all encompassing or affecting a person’s entire life enunciating the deterioration of race relations toward strict segregation as well as brutality leading to the rivaled slavery. This book depicts the pain of people struggling against unbelievable injustice and violence and suffering to a great extent. The institution of lynching incorporated with sadistic torture became the public ritual of south where the black women and men being the primary victim – the victimization there become a collective experience accompanied by extraordinary torture and humiliation. Even when we step into the era of ultra modernization, this could be something we might feel unwilling to believe that happens in American culture, one of the world’s developed countries.
Summary of the movie: Losing Isaiah

At the very beginning of the movie, it is observed that Khaila Richards (Halle Berry), black cocaine addict women, was breastfeeding her baby. She then leaves her baby by hiding him within a box in the trash to get the high. Meanwhile, as the trash had been collected, the baby had been transferred into the hospital. There, the baby, named Isaiah, had been taken care of a social worker, Margaret Lewin (Jessica Lange) and Margaret eventually developed a strong bond with the baby and brought him back to her home with her husband and daughter. On the other side, Khaila searched for her baby as she got back her senses, and in the night, she caught up for shoplifting and sent into a rehab program. Then the film cuts into 3 years later, when it is seen that Isaiah had been officially adopted by Lewins and khaila with the help of her caseworker got the information that her baby is still alive. Khaila appealed in the court with the help of the lawyer Kader Lewis (Samuel L Jackson) pertaining to a lengthy court battle eventually turns into a battle among black and white. The movie turns into different dimension when Isaiah deliberately refused to go with Khaila and Khaila agreed to leave his custody to Margaret for the sake of his son’s happiness and the movie ended with the three sitting together and watching Isaiah to play.
Components of the Social Welfare System

In the movie, the director Stephen Gyllenhaal portrays the motherly performance in the context of emotional affection with a special emphasize on the nature-nurture components of motherhood in general. The racial differentiation is at the core of the movie with a dramatic interference of the preference of Isaiah and his environmental supplement affecting the ideas as well as the ideals in contemporary courtroom session for adoption cases.
Various responses to human needs

The film is a perfect combination of race and love, motherhood and opportunity – the theme of inter-racial adoption is nonetheless a challenging and complex issue. The movie clearly depicts the psychosocial development of a child and raises the questions for the existence of nature vs. nurture debate once again. Throughout the treatment of the film, the final word of delivering Isaiah is not of utmost importance to the makers of the film in the context of racial dilemma promoting the court examination of race, culture and the best environment to grow a child over the response of a child in a new environment and development of attachment of new family setting.
Various Social Welfare Resources

The various social welfare resources portrayed in the film combines the racial discrimination, conflict, poverty, cultural impoverishment. The movie also takes an important role by characterizing the personal growth and development of a minor group member and her struggle and uplifting in the context of social discrimination. On the other hand, the cross-cultural adoption brings about a controversy and important and turning melodramatic significance in the movie.
Identification of discriminatory acts and stereotyping

The movie illustrates the idea of stereotyping while Khaila once again decided to regain custody with the help of the promotion of the court examination of race, culture, ethnicity and the best environment for bringing up a black child with the attachment of a black biological mother.
Identification of Social Influence
The theme of the movie is based on the real life situation incorporating the life style of various cultures among US, their societal status, racial discrimination and inequality as a whole. Khaila, an abandoned women and addict, caught up as an offender of shoplifting incidence, left her child within trash – describes the situation of minority group of individuals covering the significance population of US. On the other hand, the white woman, Margaret and her status of living, illustrates an overall functional condition of whites and their secure states in all aspects including familial, financial, emotional and structural as well.
Impact of Religious Belief

The movie has not been treated as a typical religious movie, whereas, the uplifting of a constrained soul to a higher philosophy and belief provides an extraordinary treatment in the movie. On the other hand, the name Isaiah, the name of one of the early Judean prophets, is chosen perhaps to signify the equality of humankind in relation to the Christian essence contextual in the movie itself.
Summary of the movie: Imitation of Life

In the movie Imitation of Life, there are four women attempting to make their lives something more than the ordinary imitations of life. Lora Meredith and her daughter Susie have put a great effort in order to stay in the positive track of life after the death of Lora's husband. Another character in the film Annie Johnson, whose husband left her before their daughter Sarah Jane was born, finding trouble while searching job as a domestic worker as having a daughter. The movie depicts how those two women get closed and start living together, where Annie works as a maid in the apartment of Lora, an aspiring actress. The one of the significant intricate part of the movie is seen when Sarah Jane refuses her racial identity and tries to pass for white.
Social Paradigms, Values and Ideologies guiding the 1950s’ Society & in the movie

The melodramatic treatment of the film incorporated the implication of motherhood in general – as the treatment of the movie was aimed mostly for female audience, prescribing the feelings and emotions ascribing the happiness to its viewers, it may be stated that the movie lights on the definition and dilemma of female happiness governed the 50s’ society with an emphasize on the natural domestic role as mother and wife. The racial discrimination and role typing in different societal context was quite prevalent as it was in the movie characterized by Annie, who worked as a servant in the white world, whereas played the role of a community leader and high respectable figure. On the other hand, the yearning of Sarah quite evidently proved how much injustice were induced with restrictions and limitations employed on black communities, that she wanted to make herself free from the bondage of the racist society and put herself to grow in accordance with the white. Her craving for appearing as white and the social discrimination associated with colour have depicted a painful emotional dramatic sequence which shows its audience that how an adolescent girl has been brutally beaten by her white boyfriend after the recognition of being black instead of white. Sarah’s obsession for appearing as a white woman denotes how deep is the root of the insensible injustice associated with the colour discrimination within the envelope of pseudo societal norm that enforces deference, unnecessary submission to whites and compels a girl to deny her own identity.
Poverty depicted in the movie

Annie, being an abandoned woman from black community, was compelled to spend days in poverty. On the one hand, her husband left her even before her daughter was born, and the other, while she wanted to get employed into domestic work, no one wanted to get her into work as she was carrying a daughter. The white women in the movie, Annie Johnson, passed through critical time along with her daughter after her husband died, recovered with fulfilling of her dream becoming an actress.
Social Influences and Social Policies guiding the treatment of the movie
The movie is built up in the two contrasting social combination of families concerning the participation of white and black with the racial discrimination influencing the set up of the movie. The movie clearly depicts the ideologies of mother-daughter relation and conflicts associating with the group discrimination and cultural variations. The problem among the white mother with her daughter has been developed as a result of inert conflict originating on the basis of interpersonal conflict and attachment, hence the pledge entailing the crush of teenage daughter on her mother’s boyfriend, whereas, the conflicting scenario between the black mother and her daughter simply develops on the basis of the overt influence of society where the daughter projects herself passing as a white and cruelly beaten by her white boyfriend after getting recognized, or sacked up from the dance bar because of hiding the racial identity, or simply living with an induced mask of white.

My own view about Imitation of LifeImitation of Life is basically a racial psychodrama that projects the 50’s culture and societal structure at its utmost level. The movie treats the audience with intense emotion with the logical sequence of racial and ethnic segregation that covered the society as a whole. How the dysfunctional nature of family is governed by the intervention of racism and ethnicity, the movie beautifully portrays the same – on one hand, the white daughter craves for the love of her mother, feeling neglected, she become extravagant and tries to steal her mother’s fiancĂ©, whereas, the other girl, brought up in the same familial structure, the black one, strives for succumbing herself even in victimization and exploitation just to pass in as a white. The emotional intensity within the constraint of societal norms, discrimination and segregation makes the movie a classic and its audiences to drop at least one tear from their eyes.
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