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Tweet1947Eileen Younghusband The importance of high standards for social work education
Social worker Eileen Younghusband (1902-1981), not to be confused with the second world war heroine with the same name, is in several ways an important part of 20th century social work history. She was active during the most decisive formative decades of the welfare state, contributing significantly — particularly through committee work and reports - to the development of systems and institutions at national level in the UK.
Towards the end of her career she wrote a couple of publications on the history of social work in Britain. These have been described as the history of British social services with Eileen Younghusband left out. She was modest about her own contribution to the social work profession, but it was substantial and still continues to inspire current practice.
Growing up in Kent, UK and India, where her father was a colonial services officer, she entered the social work profession at the age of 22 in London, rapidly moving on to settlement work in Bermondsey and Stepney in the eastern part of London. Meanwhile, she studied sociology at the London School of Economics where her career developed as a staff member and initiator of an innovative generic social work course: launched in 1954 it quickly became an example for other social work training courses.
Throughout her career, Eileen Younghusband chaired many committees and was involved in many reports, several of which resulted in changes in social work. Working for the Carnegie UK Trust she prepared reports on Employment and training of social workers (1947) and Social work in Britain (1951). These are known as the Carnegie reports. It is here that she strongly advocated generic training for social work, built around core knowledge common to all social workers, whatever their specialisation.
Later, she chaired the Committee on social workers in local authority health and welfare services, which produced radical recommendations on social work education and training. The committee’s report became known as the Younghusband report and was published in 1959. It led to the establishment in 1961 of the National Institute of Social Work (NISW), which inspired social work in the UK and internationally for four decades. In 2003, NISW was incorporated in the Social Care Institute of Excellence (SCIE).
Eileen Younghusband was also active at an international level, initially through the British Council and the UN, and from 1950 through the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), initially as board member and from 1961 onwards as (honorary) president. She made it her task to promote high standards of social work education across the globe.
She is still honoured by the IASSW through the biennial Eileen Younghusband memorial lectures at the global IASSW conference.
Eileen Younghusband died at the age of 79 in a car accident on May 27th, 1981 in Raleigh, North Carolina, while on a lecture tour in North America.
This text was written by Jan Steyaert
Date of first publication: 09-2013
Date of latest revision: 06-2019