The project-research group will deal with various periods. The period 1945–1980 was characterised by major changes in the circumstances of vulnerable groups in Denmark. These changes were not quite in sync across the various branches of care. However, they can be broadly separated into three main periods. The three periods are marked by legislative changes arising out of the public debate about care, as well as by new attitudes and professional approaches.
The project deals with the following periods:
The period 1945–1958/59 was characterised by the idea that vulnerable groups could be treated or educated in large institutions. These institutions were often run by doctors or had medical supervision.
The doctors' influence was very strong in the areas of psychiatry and care for the mentally impaired. The treatment here was dominated by medical methods, and procedures such as lobotomy, sterilisation and castration were widespread. The doctors had less of an influence in the areas of child care and workhouses, although these also involved medical supervision. Doctors also played a key role in relation to research into vulnerable groups such as prostitutes, vagrants, drug addicts, etc.
Towards the end of the period, public criticism of the conditions resulted in, e.g. new laws regarding child care (1958) and mental health care (1959), as well as a report on the state's treatment of the mentally ill (1956) and the workhouses (1959).
The period 1959–1967/68 was characterised by an attitudinal shift in which ideas about normalisation, equality and human rights began to assert themselves.
Professional groups such as social educators, social workers, psychologists and others gained more influence in mental health care and psychiatry, in which teaching, psychotherapy and psychological testing came to play a greater role. However, much of the treatment was still administered in large institutions, and lobotomy, sterilisation and castration were still used, albeit less often than in the past.
Towards the end of this period, there was a greater focus on the rights of vulnerable groups, with amendments to laws and circulars, e.g. on sterilisation, which was abolished in mental health care in 1967, a ban on all forms of corporal punishment in children's homes and reform schools (1968), and the abolition of the censorship of letters (1967), etc.
The period from 1968 up to 1980 was characterised by a new critique of the conditions for mental health care, psychiatry, child care etc. Ideas about democracy, group homes and care in the local community gained ground. This led to a showdown with – and the start of the closure of – the big institutions. At the same time, new approaches signified moves toward multi-disciplinary medical, educational, social and psychological treatment. Lobotomy and psychosurgery were phased out.
Towards the end of the period, vulnerable groups were accorded additional rights and extensive legislative changes were introduced. These included the Social Assistance Act (1976), psychiatry's transition from state- to county auspices (1976) and the transferral of mental health care to the counties (1980).
However, complete equality was not achieved. Among other things, the section of the act about mentally ill people and those with learning difficulties not being allowed to marry without the permission of the Ministry of Justice was not abolished until 1989.