Connecting histories of welfare

Profs Jonathan Parker and Sara Ashencaen Crabtree undertook their annual field trip to Sherborne Abbey and St Johns’ Almshouse (Yes! The apostrophe’s in the right place, it refers to two Johns.) on Monday. The trip is held for Sociology & Social Policy students studying the histories of social welfare.

This year was particularly valuable as the students are producing group narratives concerning a range of characters and scenarios from history involving research into policy, legislation and practices to contextualise their stories. Seeing at least six hundred years of active community welfare and care through the almshouses, and tracing back Sherborne’s history to the time of Alfred the Great – who initiated a precursor to the poor laws for his people – the students were able to see the lived experiences and histories written about in their own research. This was brought sharply into the present day when it was revealed that the Sherborne foodbank programme serving a population of little over 10,000 people is delivering in excess of 1,000 food parcels each year! Students gained great insight into the connecting strands of welfare at formal and informal, state and charitable/third sector levels.