Social Welfare Administration
Social welfare administration has twin concepts of
social welfare and administration embedded in it. Thus
it requires an understanding of welfare and its origins
as well as administration as a tool for achieving welfare.
Administration as a part of governance is as old as
society itself. People in a society have inherently
tried to take care of destitute and underprivileged
individuals either because of benevolence or because
of religious and customary obligations. As governance
systems evolved, with the changing political and social
systems, there was an effort to institutionalize welfare.
The issue of society meeting human needs has been
part and parcel of human societies. Such an effort led
to incorporating these in constitutional obligations.
The welfare discourse has seen changing dimensions
from charity to needs, to rights based approaches.
Whatever may be the mode of approach, welfare
provisions have become an integral part of governance
system, hence a part of administration. Thus
understanding welfare administration perforce needs
an understanding of welfare and its linkages to other
concepts like justice, development rights, equality etc.
At the same time the administration of welfare provision
requires an understanding of administration structures,
processes and participatory approaches. The
administration of welfare has been perforce linked to
bureaucracy hence requires an understanding of the
functioning of bureaucracy catering to welfare provisions
in specific locales. The knowledge and skills associated
with administration are heavily drawn from ‘managerial
In order to make a voluntary agency more effective to
render social welfare services to the community, it
has to adopt certain administrative, financial and
procedural practices which every voluntary worker has
to understand. These are studied under the broad
term social welfare administration. It is one of the six
basic methods of social work practice namely Case
work, Group work, Community organization, Social
action, Social research Social welfare administration.
Social welfare administration is a process by which we
apply professional competence to achieve certain goals.
It is called a process of transforming social policy into
wherein two clusters of knowledge and skills are
involved. One deals with the knowledge of techniques
of planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating
and budgeting and the other knowledge of the subject
matter of the programme and the field in which these
techniques are applied. The latter concerns the specific
client groups and their needs.
In order to understand social welfare administration it
would be useful to look at some definitions.
Social welfare administration refers to the process of
applying professional competence to implementing
certain programme of social welfare through social
agencies in fulfillment objects and policy of the agency
The concept of welfare while it is important in ancient
times, the emergence of modern nation states saw
welfare undergoing change. This change was clearly
associated with the notion of democracy. Further the
importance given to individual rights and concepts of
liberty, equality and freedom influenced the nature of
the treatment meted out to people. The development of
democratic governance systems was concomitant with
the provisions of taking care of the needy and the
destitute. Even though capitalist developments ran
parallel to democratic thought processes, the sociopolitical
contexts influenced the way the individual in
society was conceived. Each individual as a citizen was
entitled to certain rights associated with certain
obligations. The negative effects of the industrial
development on certain sections of the population led
to the analysis of such issues in depth with the help of
some social surveys –on the poor and marginalized,
(surveys by Booth and Rowntree in Britain). Such a
research base provided a rationale for the development
of provisions for the welfare of these sections.
Associated with these are the developments in the
profession of social work in terms of the settlement
house movement and the charities organization of
societies. Methodological sharpening and fine tuning
took place in these periods. Social welfare
administration was then very essential for the welfare
state emergence and sustenance. With the development
of the welfare state all the activities undertaken by
the state are called welfare activities. Such well defined
activities when grouped together as activities for social
welfare may then be brought under the sphere of
social welfare administration.
Because of the contextual nature in which welfare
unfolded in various countries, each with its peculiar
needs and concerns, state provisions for welfare
emerged differently in different countries. Thus the
definition of what constitutes welfare varies from
countries to countries and from time to time..
Concomitant with this the focus of welfare
administration also varies.
Since many definitions of social welfare administration
involve the term social services, it is useful to look at
some terms, before we proceed further. Social services
are a wider term which includes ‘social welfare
services’. Social welfare services are the enabling services
designed for those groups which cannot take full
advantage of the established services such as
educational, health, recreational or other facilities. In
addition it is to be understood that social work is a
discipline using specialized techniques for
administering social welfare services, while social
welfare is an overall term signifying a state of total
well being of the community.
John C Kidneigh 1950 : social work administration is
“the process of transforming social policy into social
services ……..a two-way process: 1) transforming policy
into concrete social services, and 2) the use of
experience in recommending modification of policy”.
Social work dictionary defines administration social
work as ‘methods used by those who have
administrative responsibility to determine
organizational goals for asocial agency or other unit;
acquire resources and allocate them to carry out a
program; coordinate activities towards achieving
selected goals; and monitor, assess and make necessary
changes in processes and structure to improve
effectiveness and efficiency. In social work, the term
is often used synonymously with management”.
Arthur Dunham 1962 describes administration as the
process of supporting or facilitating activities which
are necessary and incidental to the giving of direct
service by a social agency. Administrative activities
range from the determination of function and policies,
and executive leadership to routine operations such as
keeping records and accounts and carrying on
Harleigh Trecker interprets social work administration
as a process of working with people in ways that release
and relate their energies so that they use all available
resources to accomplish the purpose of providing needed
community services and programs. The major principles
of social work administration as:
a) administration is a continuous dynamic process.
b) process set into motion in order to accomplish a
common purpose or goal.
c) resources of people and material harnessed to
achieve the common goal.
d) the above is achieved through coordination and
e ) implicit in these definition are the elements of
planning, organizing and leadership.
Skidmore (1995) offers a summary
‘Social welfare administration may be thought of as
the action of staff members who utilize social processes
to transform social policies of agencies into the delivery
of social services …….Basic processes most often
used are planning, organising, staffing, directing and
Social work profession involves enhancing the social
functioning of individuals and groups for which various
methods are employed. Case work, group work and
community organization are considered as core
methods. In addition social welfare administration,
social research and social action have developed
subsequently as separate methods which are found to
be very effective in performing the social work role. It
has been found that every case work, group work or
community organization involves agencies as
institutions for service delivery. This service delivery
is the major mode by which social welfare services are
rendered. In that case it becomes imperative to
understand the nature of welfare services and how
these are administered. The method of social welfare
administration enables one to acquire an understanding
of the principles, knowledge of administration as well
as develop skills in efficient and effective service
delivery. Administration involves the ability to bring to
bear on decision making the knowledge and the
information which are essential for wise judgments.
Such knowledge and information are painstakingly
acquired by education, by experience and by deep
immersion in the work of social agency.
The ability to perform well and wisely, to steer the
social agency constructed for humane purposes, is
best acquired by professional social work education
and experience, combined with powerful identification
of social wok values and ethics. The ability to put all
these together is to be sought in the professional
social worker rather than in the professional