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The Settlement Movement changed forever the way we approach charity and voluntary work.

A brief background

The Settlement Movement grew out of a deep sense of unease about the human consequences of the industrial revolution in late Victorian times. The level of poverty experienced by so many people had never been seen before.

Samuel Barnett, a priest in Whitechapel, took action locally by opening evening schools for adults, administering the Poor Law and joining the management committee of several local schools.

As time went on, he promoted the idea of settlements, where university academics and students could come to live among poor communities, and hear the opinions of people living in poverty. This way of connecting the future leaders and decision-makers of England with ordinary citizens was to prove transforming for people such as William Beveridge and Clement Attlee, both one time residents of Toynbee Hall, and chief instigators and implementers of the Welfare State.

Barnett’s influence and eloquence galvanised a generation to attack the causes of poverty.

From 1884, the settlement movement grew across England, with Toynbee Hall, Oxford House, Charterhouse-in-Southwark and Cambridge House being the first four.

The movement quickly spread internationally, thanks to social pioneers from Toynbee Hall moving to the US and other parts of Europe. Today the settlement movement is worldwide, with settlements in the US, Canada, Scandinavia, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Settlements Today

Today’s settlements are anchors in their local communities, a role many have fulfilled for over a century. They bring people together, support minority groups, and work to empower the powerless and the vulnerable.

Settlements transform neighbourhoods, by:

  • providing services and activities that meet the needs of local people
  • supporting people to influence decision-making
  • taking steps to improve the local environment
  • creating a space where people can come together.

Locality is a member of the International Federation of Settlements, which brings together a global network of Settlements.