London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:

1612 - 2006

Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of the Family Welfare Association (FWA), formerly the Charity Organisation Society (COS), comprising records of the Central Office (Ref: A/FWA/C) and records of six FWA Areas in London and their predecessor district committees of the COS (Ref: A/FWA/GL, A/FWA/HF, A/FWA/KW, A/FWA/LS, A/FWA/TH, A/FWA/WA).

    The records include administrative papers, annual reports, papers of the Secretary and Director, papers of the Enquiry Department and Registration Department; publications; papers of the Grants Department; papers of the Almshouses Department; case files and financial records.
Extent: 67.8 linear metres
Classification: CHARITIES
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • The Society for Organising Charitable Relief and Repressing Mendicity was founded in 1869. It was more commonly known by its short title, the Charity Organisation Society (COS). It was later known as the Family Welfare Association. Its formation arose out of concern over overlapping charities in London, whose activities, it was feared, led to pauperisation and a waste of resources. Its founders sought to promote a more scientific approach to charity based on the principle that relief should only be given after a thorough investigation of the applicant's circumstances and character and that relief should be sufficient to prevent him becoming a pauper. Its objects included promotion of co-operation between charitable agencies and Poor Law authorities.

    In the 20th century the COS played a major role in pioneering the proper training of social workers and in the development of social work as a profession. It was responsible for the appointment of the first hospital almoner at the Royal Free Hospital in 1895. The Council appointed a Committee on Training in 1897 and arranged a series of lectures which district secretaries on probation were expected to attend. In 1903 the School of Sociology was opened as an offshoot of the COS, although an independent body; it decided to merge with the London School of Economics in 1912. In 1915 the COS began its own twelve-month course of training in social work in conjunction with Bedford College. It also provided practical experience for students from other courses. Consequently the work of the district offices became increasingly dominated by salaried professional social workers and the role of the volunteer decreased in importance.
    The COS also played an important role in the setting up of Citizens' Advice Bureaux (CAB), an idea developed in response to the numbers of people seeking guidance and advice during the Munich Crisis in 1938. The London Council of Social Service and the COS jointly established some 80 CAB in London by the outbreak of war in 1939. Each bureau was autonomous, with a local management committee, and there was a national central committee. The COS was responsible for the CAB in inner London. They proved so useful that the service was continued after the end of the war.
    In 1946 the COS was renamed the Family Welfare Association (FWA) to reflect its changed role and to emphasise its principal function as a family casework agency.

    The Family Welfare Association changed its name to Family Action in 2008.
Creator: Society for Organising Charitable Relief and Repressing Mendicity
Charity Organisation Society
FWA | Family Welfare Association x Family Welfare Association
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • AC/70/028
  • AC/70/035
  • AC/70/045
  • AC/70/053
  • AC/70/054
  • AC/70/055
  • AC/74/024
  • AC/69/097
  • AC/71/010
  • AC/72/058
  • AC/73/008
  • B07/010
  • ACC/1898
  • ACC/3315
  • ACC/2991
  • ACC/3129
Access Restrictions: All records of the FWA which are less than 60 years old, with the exception of annual reports and other publications, are closed to public consultation unless written permission for access is obtained from the Director of the Family Welfare Association.
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: A/FWA/C: Central Office;
A/FWA/GL: Area 6 (Greenwich and Lewisham);
A/FWA/HF: Area 1 (Hammersmith and Fulham);
A/FWA/KW: Area 2 (Kensington and Westminster);
A/FWA/LS: Area 7 (Lambeth and Southwark);
A/FWA/TH: Area 4 (Camden, Islington, Hackney);
A/FWA/WA: Area 5 (Wandsworth).
Related Material: The FWA Library was deposited in the University of London Library. A number of local record offices hold area records of the Family Welfare Association: for further details see the National Register of Archives.
Publication Notes:

For detailed accounts of the history of the COS and FWA, see Charles Loch Mowat, "The Charity Organisation Society 1869-1913" (1961); and Madeline Rooff, "A Hundred Years of Family Welfare" (1972).