Current Public Administration Magazine (July - 2015) - Basic Concepts of Social Welfare

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

Welfare Administration

Basic Concepts of Social Welfare

United Nations :

“Social welfare as an organized function is regarded as a body of activities designed to enable individuals, families, groups and communities to cope with the social problems of changing conditions. But in addition to and extending beyond the range of its responsibilities for specific services, social welfare has a further function within the broad area of a country’s social development. In this larger sense, social welfare should play a major role in contributing to the effective mobilization and deployment of human and material resources of the country to deal successfully with the social requirements of change, thereby participating in nation-building.”


1) remedial: removing disabling conditions, regaining normal functioning; needy groups, under-privileged sector in society, minimum standard of service provision, emergency relief, ad hoc basis, remedy gross hardships and human sufferings, minimum state intervention, private and family care, alleviate abnormalities, short-term basis; also related to residual services;
2) preventive: early prevent abnormal behaviour and conditions; creating new conditions; eliminate causes of problems, research analysis on causes for effective prevention, prevention is better than cure, screening service, early identification, systematic planning, universal services...etc.;
3) developmental: improving situations, development of individual and society, constructive planning, social investment, awareness on social responsibility, develop potentials and new capacities, growth towards mature and responsible citizenship;
4) supportive: achieving objectives of other sectors in society; mutual benefits among various services and clienteles, support services, education and continuous training, community support; inter-related nature of various social policies; better effectiveness and efficiency, economy;

Characteristics of social welfare programmes:

1. serve community interests - derived from community need assessment, service design to satisfy such needs;
2. value-based - e.g. human rights, citizen responsibility, social justice, prosperity, stability, equity,....etc.;
3. non-market activities - not directly capital generating, not subject to purely market mechanism/ dynamics (i.e. demand and supply), depends on donation, subsidy, fee charging; [but more recent theories suggest that welfare can also be operated in a ‘mixed market’ mode]
4. accessible to all - citizen right, efficient service delivery system, equal opportunity;
5. accountable to public - effective public and social administration, professional code of practice;

Conceptual Framework for studying social welfare

1. Identify the need/ problem:

  • what kind of problem is faced by the people concerned (e.g. the elderly, the children, the disabled, the women....etc.);
  • what kind of need is derived from such kind of problem(s): e.g. the problem of inadequate jobs calls for the need for job placement, the problem of inadequate nutrition calls for the need for improvement in diet; etc.
  • assess the degree or extent of such kind of problem and need e.g. number of people affected, proportion in society, duration of such kind of problem....etc.;

2. Analyze the various possible factors leading to such problem and need :

  • is it caused by individual or social factors ? e.g. individual inadequacy in character (e.g. being lazy ?) or societal structural problems ? (e.g. racial or sexual discrimination, deprivation ...?)
  • is it caused by single or multiple factors ?
  • assess and weight the relative incidence of different possible factors attributing to the problem/ need;

3. Identify the agents who/ which are responsible directly/indirectly to cause the problem:

  • are the individuals who are suffering responsible for their own problems ?
  • is the government responsible ? are the employers responsible ?
  • are the other social systems like the family, the religious institutions, interest groups....etc. responsible ?

4. What can be done to remedy the problem or satisfy the need ?

  • what measures can be taken to improve the situation ? e.g. increasing welfare ? improve functioning of some social systems like the family, the neighbourhood, the kinship system, the religious institutions, the educational system, the political system .... etc. ?

5. Critical examination of underlying values, assumptions, beliefs, cultural norms/ traditional mores....etc. throughout the exercise:

  • is the definition/ identification of problem/ need affected by some specific set of beliefs/ values ?
  • is the identification of responsible agents biased by some particular assumptions (e.g. the government should bear ultimate responsibility to provide welfare);
  • is the decision on choice of solutions affected by some non-rational, not well-thought considerations ? (e.g. increase welfare provision by government will incur higher taxes, will the economy be affected ?);

Partnership of the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs):

(1) NGOs contributions: usually start upon private initiatives, small, innovative, pilot projects, volunteer participation, responsive to new needs, cheaper to run, watchdog role,
(2) Government contributions: manifestation of goals of equality and fraternity, legislation, control, set and uphold standard, subvention control, statutory services, monitoring of public funds, institutionalize policy and service planning, welfare state provision from ‘Cradle to Grave’.
(3) Individuals and family contributions: informal support, source of gratification, personal care, emotional dependency,
(4) Community contributions: informal assistance and support from neighbors, volunteers, etc. donations.

[Ernest Chui @]

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