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Our History


Family Action has a very impressive history. Since being founded in 1869, we have regularly been at the forefront of providing innovative support to vulnerable people.

Click on the video or on each date to learn more about our history or use our interactive timeline, kindly prepared by researchers from the University of Southampton and Goldsmiths, University of London.



  1. 1869: The Charity Organisation Society (COS) is founded [+]
  2. 1870: COS opens the first Employment Enquiry Office in London. [+]
  3. 1875: C.S Loch is appointed as the first Chief Executive of COS [+]
  4. Late 1870's: COS establishes the founding principles of modern day social work [+]
  5. 1882: COS establishes the Sanitary Aid Committee to reduce the spread of infectious diseases [+]
  6. 1890's: COS and Charles Booth undertake a census of poverty across England [+]
  7. 1895: COS founds the concept of attaching social workers to schools and hospitals [+]
  8. 1901: COS sets up the first social work training course at what is now the London School of Economics
  9. 1908: The first Pension Act is introduced following campaigns from COS for a state-managed scheme
  10. 1920s: The era after the Great War saw an increase in workload for COS – the death of so many men and fathers impacted on families across the country
  11. 1938: COS sets up some of the first Citizens Advice Bureaux’s (CAB) in the country [+]
  12. 1939 - 1945: The Family Service Units (FSU) is formed to aid families in cities affected by WWII [+]
  13. 1946: The charity is re-named and becomes the Family Welfare Association (FWA). [+]
  14. 1948: Children’s Departments are established for the first time under the new Welfare State [+]
  15. 1948: The Family Discussion Bureau is opened, the first Guide to the Social Services published, and the Educational Grants Advisory Service formed [+]
  16. 1950s: FWA plays a major role in helping to make social work a profession [+]
  17. 1953: Queen Elizabeth II becomes Patron in place of the late Queen Mary
  18. 1975: FWA organises the first UK family therapy conference, at a time when family therapy was relatively unheard of in Britain [+]
  19. 1978: FWA introduces the first GP-attached social workers to offer patients a more integrated service [+]
  20. 1988: FWA opens its first psychiatric residential service [+]
  21. 1997: Helen Dent becomes Chief Executive of the FWA [+]
  22. 2006: Family Welfare Association takes over the Family Service Units (FSU) and becomes the largest provider of services to families in the country. [+]
  23. 2008: The FWA is re-branded to become Family Action [+]
  24. 2009: Family Action wins the Charities Award for Effectiveness Award [+]
  25. 2009: Helen Dent is awarded a CBE in New Years Honours List [+]
  26. 2010: Perinatal Support Services Established [+]
  27. 2010: Family Action wins a Third Sector Award in the Corporate Partnership category [+]
  28. 2013: David Holmes appointed Chief Executive of Family Action [+]
  29. 2013: New SENDIAS and School Services Aquired [+]
  30. 2013: Open Doors Grants Programme Established [+]
  31. 2014: David Holmes is awarded CBE in New Years Honours list for services to Children and Families [+]
  32. 2015: Family Action Establishes Training and Consultancy Business [+]
  33. 2015: Family Action Merges with Friendship Works [+]
  34. 2016: Family Action opens its WellFamily A&E service [+]
  35. 2017: Safe Haven wins Social Investment Initiative Award [+]
  36. 2017: Family Action supports children and adults affected by the Grenfell Tower fire [+]
  37. 2018: BAND, Off Centre and PAC-UK merge with Family Action
  38. 2018: Family Action launches National Digital Parent Support Service (now FamilyLine) [+]
  39. 2018: Family Action begins delivery of the National School Breakfast Programme (NSBP) [+]
  40. 2019: Family Action and Magic Breakfast win Charity Partnership of the Year for the NSBP [+]
  41. 2019: HRH The Duchess of Cambridge becomes Royal Patron of Family Action [+]