Public education is also important, but I would hardly say its a model social program. Everyone benefits from an educated population, again, in an optimal case, there is little conflict of interest, and in general, it elevates the lives of those using the service. At the same time, it's something that could be done privately in the home or without any government intervention - and for most of history it was. It's also a bloated beauracratic mess, a representation of just how inefficient government programs can be. There are fantastic people in the trenches in schools being led by goons and politicians with little interest or knowledge about what is good for developing kids.
Unfortunately, much of this spending fails to encourage behaviors that actually move people out of poverty. If you are receiving assistance, any money you earn above a certain amount threatens your assistance. So you hide it or stay below the arbitrary limit. This is not the way to encourage honesty or industry.
How long were things done that way, despite the facts? Decades. And that's the problem with government administering charity. It doesn't look at the results and adjust its approach until outcomes improve. Its driven by political considerations. And when it does measure reality, it measures those things that make it look successful.
And why should it look honestly at outcomes? Government doesn't have to convince you to support a program. Unlike private charity, it can make you fund it. You probably don't even realize what you're funding.
While that is likely true, in other segments of the population, such as vulnerable children, providing food, shelter and health care encourages "not dying".