From the early days of European settlement, attempts have been made to meet social welfare problems through services established by the churches or non-denominational community organisations. The Otago Benevolent Society, founded in 1862, was an early example of the latter. In spite of official encouragement and some financial assistance from the State, most of the nineteenth century attempts were failures, and New Zealand's oldest voluntary welfare organisations date usually from the early years of the twentieth century as it was only then that economic standards had risen to the point where the public could afford to support such activities from private contributions.
Traditionally the voluntary organisations have been concerned chiefly with the provision of institutions for the care of children and the aged. This has been true of the church social services as well as of more specialist organisations such as the National Foundation for the Blind and the Crippled Children Society. More recently the welfare associations operated by the various churches have shown an increasing tendency to concern themselves with the foster home placement of deprived children and a wider range of casework services. The Anglican Diocesan Social Service Council in Christchurch has been a notable leader in this field. This same trend is illustrated by the tendency of one of New Zealand's oldest voluntary agencies, the Society for the Protection of Home and Family (formerly the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, founded in 1898), to change from an emphasis on the provision of legal and financial assistance to women to the provision of counselling and casework services to families as a whole.
A striking feature of the present situation is the increasing number of organisations concerned with the maintenance and strengthening of existing families and with the provision of services for non-delinquent children and adults, covering a whole range of activities such as the education of pre-school children, family planning, assistance to intellectually and physically handicapped children and their families, the treatment and support of alcoholics and their families, marriage counselling and education for marriage. Many of these services receive subsidies, assistance in the provision of training courses, and other forms of aid from the State. They are staffed very largely by part time, often unpaid, workers.
Birthright (New Zealand) Inc.
In 1956 the first Birthright Society was formed at Hastings, and similar societies followed in other centres. Birthright advises and gives limited financial assistance to children and mothers in cases where there is no father. Birthright works closely with the State Advances Corporation and the Social Security Department, but is dependent upon the voluntary services of citizens. There are Birthright Societies in the main New Zealand centres.
Hohepa Homes and Schools
The New Zealand Trust Board for Home-Schools for Curative Education was formed on 4 May 1956 to establish suitable institutions for the curative education of intellectually handicapped persons according to principles of Rudolf Steiner. By 1965 there were three Hohepa Home-Schools – all in the Napier district – while a fourth is to be opened in Christ-church later in the year.
Intellectually Handicapped Children's Society
The Intellectually Handicapped Children's Society was formed at Wellington on 25 October 1949, when it was called the Intellectually Handicapped Children's Parents' Association. Its functions were to provide services for the care and training of the intellectually handicapped. Prior to this the only groups interested in these were the small After-Care Associations. The society soon drew the Government's attention to its work and now receives a small subsidy. It collaborates with the Department of Health and runs hostels, opportunity workshops, day-care centres, and schools where children can get special training. The society now has branches throughout New Zealand.
New Zealand Prisoners' Aid Society
There are 14 local societies in this organisation whose chief functions are visiting prisoners and providing help for their wives and families. The society maintains close cooperation with the Department of Justice, from which it receives grants; further finance is received from lotteries. By these means, together with donations, the society is able to employ four full-time officers. The work, however, is mainly voluntary and there are over 200 voluntary workers throughout the country. Future plans provide for a comprehensive scheme of assistance in the resettlement of prisoners following their release, and, in furtherance of this work, the setting up of post-release hostels.
Wellington After-Care Association, Inc.
This association, which is typical of many now functioning throughout the country, was established in 1928 to provide care for older mentally retarded children, many of whom have already passed through special classes. It is purely a voluntary organisation which provides an occupational centre and a sheltered workshop where boys and girls are trained in hand-crafts. Recreation and training in social adjustment are important features of the activities. It is financed by grants from trust funds, public donations, and various money-raising efforts.