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History of QSA

East London is a unique, diverse and ever-changing part of the world.  As an area it has changed beyond all recognition since the Bedford Institute Association (our original name) was established in 1867.  

Archive imageVictorian Philanthropy

In the nineteenth century, the East End was an industrial and shipping centre populated by tight-knit working-class communities, often living in appalling cramped conditions.  The early Bedford Institute Association was formed from three Quaker organisations with four aims: Education, Religious Effort, Moral Training, and Relief of the sick and destitute.  

Archive imageSlum projects and Seaside trips

As the BIA entered the 20th century, its eight branches across east and South London applied themselves to the nurturing of healthy citizens. They became places of refuge from the overcrowding and slums of East End streets, offering activities, summer camps, and outings for unemployed men and for women with children.   

Archive imageWar and the Welfare State

The docklands and the area around them were important not just for London, but for imperial Britain. Consequently, they suffered heavy bombing during the Second World War, with hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed and old communities scattered by social housing. The new post-war flats, new jobs, and new social legislation gave East Enders an improved standard of living based on rights rather than charity. In this new welfare society, much of the previous philanthropic work of the BIA seemed outdated.

New Problems

In the 1970s and 1980s, economic crises combined with changes to welfare policy to create a new, spiralling rise in social deprivation and poverty. In the late 1980s the BIA began to grow rapidly once again in response to these problems. To reflect a more modern image and purpose, the BIA was renamed as Quaker Social Action and incorporated as a limited company (as well as a charity) in 1998.  

Archive imageImmigration and Change

The area has traditionally been a home for waves of migration: Jewish, Irish, and most recently, Bangladeshi. Now, 49% of Tower Hamlets residents are from minority ethnic groups, with a third of all residents of Bangladeshi origin. The presence of so many different groups makes east London an exciting and lively place to live; but it can also stir conflict.

Archive imageToday's East End

145 years on, east London today is still labelled as a 'deprived' community. With high rates of unemployment, escalating debt and the enduring presence of homelessness, it is perhaps not surprising that four in ten children in Tower Hamlets are living in poverty. That's why QSA still exists. We work with individuals, families, children and young people, empowering them to find solutions to the issues affecting their lives. As east London changes and develops so will we, reflecting the differing needs of the community in which we are proud to work.

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