We have produced a timeline that charts the history of VAC since its earliest days as the Hampstead Council of Social Welfare in the early 1900s. Read the timeline in full below or skip to your chosen section by clicking on the links below:
VAC’s roots go back to the middle of the nineteenth Century when the Charity Organisations Society was set up in 1865. The local branch of this society, the Hampstead Charity Organisation’s Society, took steps, starting in 1900, to reform the local structure so that the “United Agencies of the Borough might choose their own Executive Committee”.
In 1907 the Hampstead Council of Social Welfare was formed as a democratically structured membership organisation with fifty-three ‘cooperating agencies’ listed as “Religious, Municipal and Voluntary Institutions”. The committee utilized many subcommittees divided into “organising committees” and “committees of assistance”. The organising committees brought together related charities that set policy, which was then administered by area committees of assistance. The principal aim of this new organisation was to create a “linked and representative system”. The main priorities for the organisation then were, “dealings with the vagrant class”, the control of TB, single mothers (dealt with by the “Rescue and Maternity” committee), distributing pensions to the elderly, allotments and general casework.
There was much interest nationally in the “Hampstead System” which claimed to occupy a position between the “municipalized approach” and the “completely parallel approach”.
Claims of the innovative and pioneering nature of the sector were being made nearly a century ago – the 1911 annual report refers to voluntary associations as “laboratories where the raw material of future administration efficiency is worked up and freely tested.” The “Hampstead System” as it was known pioneered a partnership approach between “Religious, Municipal and Voluntary bodies”.
The Council made an early plea for statutory child protection powers; “Compulsory law has to be called in to secure children from degrading surroundings and cruel neglect.”
By the early 1920′s the number of subcommittees had expanded to include an adolescent Care Committee, an Athletic Sports Committee, a Domestic Service Committee (the largest ‘industry’ in Hampstead), an Infant Welfare Committee, Dwellings of the People Committee, Poor Mans Lawyer Society (early legal advice service), a Pastimes Committee and, cryptically, a Present Day Dangers Committee (concerned with STDs).
By the end of the twenties the “Hampstead System” has been adopted by sixty or seventy municipalities throughout England and The Hampstead Council for Social Welfare are active participants in the London Council for Social Service.
A name change from ‘Welfare’ to ‘Service’ took place – with the organisation becoming the Hampstead Council for Social Service around 1930.
Priorities change in the 1930’s; The Present Day Dangers Committee is now concerned with hygiene. There is concern over “The Lure of Alcohol” and the Council is now running patrols of Hampstead Heath in partnership with the London Council of Public Morality.
In the 1930s the Hampstead Health Institute is created – an early example of a community centre/healthy living centre. The range of subcommittees changes again and now includes a Children’s Country Holidays Fund Committee and the Council is concerned with tooth decay in children and toddlers, and litter on the heath.
Between 1940 and 1950 the Hampstead Council for Social Service starts to resemble a modern charity, though it is still undertaking a great dear of direct casework. The Council is running four Citizens Advice Bureaux, two Poor Man’s Lawyer Centres and it is concerned with rehousing via the Air Raid Victim’s Committee and for the first time a Refugees Committee is established to cater to the 800 refugees now in Hampstead.
To coincide with the creation of the new London Borough of Camden in 1965, Hampstead Council for Social Service was incorporated into a new organisation, the Camden Council for Social Service. CCSS is still undertaking direct casework but is increasingly concentrating on projects.
HCSS had piloted a voluntary workers scheme in 1963 and the final report proposed a “Voluntary Workers Bureau” which came into operation in 1966. By the early seventies Camden Council for Social Service is running a range of projects, not just the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Volunteer Bureau, but also a Bereavement Service, Consumers Aid, Neighbourhood Centres, an Adventure Playground, a minibus and pre-retirement courses.
The 1977 annual report marks a turning point in thinking about the role of CCSS from “direct management of community work projects to our basic function of community organisation.”
These changes are consolidated by 1983 when Camden Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) becomes Voluntary Action Camden and begins its new role of “intermediary”.
In 1989 VAC moved to Kings Cross and the final stage of the shift from direct management of projects to an umbrella role was underway with a resolution to shift eight of the remaining projects to independence and a full CVS role to be developed by 1990.
Throughout the 1990s VAC developed its current strategy of working through forums and networks as an effective way of supporting, involving and strengthening the sector.
VAC moved from Kings Cross to Kentish Town in October 2000 and continues to provide support to the Camden Voluntary Sector.