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History of Social Care in Ireland

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The profession of social care practice has been around for a very long time, but consistent with Gill Mac Mullin, the definition has not been set in situ. Mc Mullin states that “it has suited the government and other agencies to not have a standard definition because it helps keep salary and career structures vague” (Gillmacmillan,2019). 2005 caused about the implementation of the health and social care practitioners act and there was still no definition.

The educators from this practice describe this area as “a profession committed to the design and delivery of quality care and other support services for individual people and groups with identified needs”. Social care focuses more on individual and interpersonal dynamics, people and relationships, human development, living and dealing with children and families, helping and growth progress and gaining self-awareness. During this assignment I will describe what social care is, I will explain about the history of social care, give three examples of factors that have shaped Ireland and eventually I will discuss how social care is rapidly changing and developing.

If you would like to understand how social care came about, you must look at where it came from. In the attempt to figure out the history of social care practice in Ireland inevitably leads to a robust emphasis within the institutional context. Social care practice happened from “serious deficiencies in running children's centers and therefore the recognition of the necessity for professional trained staff” (Kennedy and Gallagher, 1997). Social care in independent Ireland was provided historically on behalf of the state by the catholic church and other churches, and up until very recent times, was hugely unregulated and perhaps more regulated in a scattered way. One example of this was the preschool regulations that were only introduced in 1996, several years after the public and private law. In the year 1908, a piece of British legislation came out, called the 1908 Children's Act and this provided the legislative framework in Ireland for the greater part of the twentieth century. By the year 1991, the social and political scenario concerning children ‘at risk’ had been considerably modified, thus reflecting a greater consciousness of the centrality to the rights of the child (Buckley et al., Focus Ireland 1996). The Childcare Act came in total contrast to the 1908 Children's Act, which imposed negative duties to rescue children who had criminal offences committed against them or who were being cruelty treated. The welfare of the child as the first and most important consideration and this is the reason the 1991 Act. The rights and duties of parents are important and taking into consideration (and are supported within the constitution) but due regard must be giving to the wishes of the child (; 2019).

For a very long time, social care has been associated with residential care. This emphasis has changed dramatically, particularly with the decline of huge institutions such as children's homes and also the emergence of alternatives such as foster care, community childcare and community-based projects. This field of study has dilated vastly in recent years, particularly in Ireland and somewhat in other places. The knowledge and types of skills that social care practitioners exhibit can be constructively applied to other areas such as working with people with disabilities, in working with older people and in responding to the needs of a broad range from asylum seekers, drug users and domestic violence victims. Inevitability, this brings social care practitioners into contact with groups such as ‘An Garda Siochanta’, social workers and medical professional. Social care practitioner's participation in multiplicatively professional teams is now quite common and these present challenges as to how people work in these fields (Gillmacmillan, 2019).

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Across Europe, there are hundreds and thousands of people with disabilities, mental health problems, older people or abandoned and vulnerable children live in large segregated residential institutions. These institutions were initially created to provide care, food and shelter, but by now evidence has shown that they are unable to ensure person-centered services and adequate support needed to achieve full inclusion. Physical separation from communities and families significantly limits the ability of those living or growing up within institutions to fully participate in their culture and wider society.

Countries will need to move away from the institutional model of care towards a system of person-centered community-based care and support in order to promote social inclusion of people with needs in line with the targets set out by the Europe 2020 strategy. The transition method is complicated to manage and politically sensitive. In the past the EU put their funds towards refurbishing these establishments, but the money should have gone to making more new community based services (; 2019).

One example of a factor that has shaped Ireland historically is women in work outside the home. A women's role has changed tremendously and is making the greatest impact on our society today. Many years ago, women's contributions to society were very limited and very much so controlled by men. In 1950 one in three women participated in the labor force and since then the force has begun to grow and grow. Due to technological advancement, opportunities for woman have continued to increase and the desire to work has also grown. Among women aged between sixteen and over, the labor force participation was 33.9% in 1950, 59.8% in 1998 compared to 2008 were 48% of women worked and 52% men. Although men are still a higher rate, the rate of women in work outside the home is certainly increasing. This gives the woman a chance to have some independence and they also bring new skills to the profession (The Balance Careers; 2019).

One thing that is changing is we as social care practitioners are trying to get in on CORU and have registered and currently waiting on the result. CORU is the regulator of health and social care professionals. Its main function is to safeguard the public by promoting high professional conduct, education, training and competence through statutory registration of health and social care professionals. CORU was set up as part of the Health and Social Care Practitioners Act 2005. Some professions that are currently registered with CORU include occupational therapists, physiotherapist, radiographers and speech and language therapists (; 2019), but how has CORU changed the history of social care practice? Firstly, we now have a service that aims to protect the health, safety and well-being of the service users, in addition to this members of the public will have much greater confidence in the profession, they will know that professional standing and qualifications have been independently verified.

In conclusion, in independent Ireland, social care was historically provided on behalf of the state by catholic churches and other churches. Its changing perceptions of the status and the rights and the changing structure of the family. Social care practitioners are working on becoming registered with CORU and on completion of this will be great benefits for both the profession of social care and its members. It can only get better from here. I think social care is great and it originates from the catholic churches and indeed other churches as well.

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History of Social Care in Ireland. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“History of Social Care in Ireland.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
History of Social Care in Ireland. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2023].
History of Social Care in Ireland [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Dec 8]. Available from:
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