Definitions of social welfare :


Dolgoff,R. & D.Feldstein (1980) Understanding Social Welfare, P.91:

In its narrowest sense, social welfare includes those nonprofit functions of society, public or voluntary, which are clearly aimed at alleviating distress and poverty or at ameliorating the conditions of the casualties of society.


Dolgoff,R., D.Feldstein & L. Stolnik (1997) Understanding Social Welfare,4th ed. P.5:

All social interventions intended to enhance or maintain the social functioning of human beings.


ational Association of Social Workers, Encyclopedia of Social Work Vol.II. 1971, p.1446:

Social welfare generally denotes the full range of organized activities of voluntary and governmental agencies that seek to prevent, alleviate, or contribute to the solution of recognized social problems, or to improve the well-being of individuals, groups, or communities.


United Nations 1967:

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.


Hong Kong Government 1965 White Paper:

"Social welfare services, in common with education, medical, housing and other parallel services, form a part of the social services which most developed communities have come to require and expect ...Social welfare services are required by those who are not capable without help and support of standing on their own feet as fully independent or 'self-directing' members of the community."



Hong Kong Government 1979 White Paper:

"Used in its broadest sense the term 'social welfare' can embrace all efforts aimed at improving health, education, employment, housing, recreational and cultural services for the community at large. However, for the purpose of the White Paper, 'social welfare' will be used in a narrower sense as the range of services provided by Social Welfare Department and the voluntary welfare sector."



Hong Kong Government 1991 White Paper:

Social welfare embraces laws, programmes, benefits and services which address social needs accepted as essential to the well-being of a society. It focuses on personal and social problems, both existing and potential.


Hong Kong Government The Five Year Plan for Social Welfare Development in Hong Kong Review 1998by Social Welfare Department, p.3:

Social welfare (in HK) embraces laws, programmes, benefits and services which address social needs accepted as essential to the well-being of a society. It focuses on personal and social problems, both existing and potential. It also plays an important developmental role by providing an organized system of services and institutions which are designed to aid individuals and groups to achieve satisfying roles in life and personal relationships which permit them to develop their full capacities and to promote their well0being in harmony with the needs and aspirations of their families and the community.


Nature of Social Welfare:



1. It is ONE of the 5 SYSTEMS OF SOCIAL SERVICES in modern industrial societies:

1) education, 2) medical & health, 3) housing, 4) income maintenance, and 5) personal welfare.









Historical development of social welfare as a social institution:


pre-industrial, agricultural, rural society

industrial urban society: (post-19th century)

Provision by: family, kinship system, neighbourhood, informal support networks, religious institutions....etc.; systematic provision by state/ government;
People involved: provided by layman, non-professional, unspecialized; specialized, professionalised;

elaborated differentiated services;

Basis of welfare: based upon normative values of mutual help, kinship or locality ties, charity, religious beliefs...etc.; based upon liberal values: universal, welfare right,
Nature of service: largely remedial in nature, selective, stigmatized; safety net approach, social wage concept , etc.; institutionalized; conceived as an integral system of society, not a remedial appendage;


Development of welfare state in post-war European countries - Britain as illustration:



3. Models of welfare:


Residual 剩餘模式----à industrial-achievement 個人成就---à institutional 制度化模式

Free-market capitalistic, individualistic ----à socialist ideals, welfare state(福利國家)





Nature Charity, assistance Citizen right
Basis of provision Selective (e.g. means test, eligibility) Universal entitlement
Social stigma May carry stigma, No stigma
Ideology Free market, individual responsibility Collectivist, state responsibility








5 . it can have different levels of COVERAGE:



6. different TYPES/ CLASSIFICATION: (narrow vs broad conception)

a) achieve optimal income security, income redistribution in society;

b) provide basic need like housing, health, material needs, education, environmental quality, safety,;

c) guarantee social rights, social functioning;


7. 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 marketmode]
  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;



Wilensky & Lebeaux: 5 features of social welfare:

  1. organization - delivered through organizations (govt & NGOs);
  2. social sponsorship & accountability - service providers answerable to funding sources (govt & donations), to provide quality service;
  3. non-profit motive [ though sometimes fee-charging ];
  4. functional generalization: - to meet different aspects of society need;
  5. direct focus on human consumption (e.g. housing, medical service, etc.)






ECONOMIC domain:

  1. mode of production - relation of production (mode of ownership of means of production)

e.g. agrarian society vs industrial society will have different modes of welfare (see above)

2. economic structure:

3. level of productivity in society:

4. government financial policy & situation:

5. citizens' mode of consumption:





1. structure of society:

2. legitimacy / origin of political authority (government formation):

3. structure of the polity:

4. political culture:

5. salience and coverage of government intervention:




SOCIAL domain:

1. population:

2. social structure (of the civil society):

3. culture:




CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK for studying social welfare

1. Identify the need/ problem:


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


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


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


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



Organizations (actors) involved in policy initiation and formulation:

  1. Executive Council [EC] lays down general policy direction esp. long-term
  2. Legislative Council [LC] (if theres a need for legislation) (now our Dept has DrCKLaw & Dr.YeungSum as LC Councilors)
  3. Welfare Panel of Legislative Council立法會福利小組 (for policy discussions & monitoring the govt)
  4. Social Welfare Advisory Committee (SWAC) 社會福利咨詢委員會 (advising on governments policy) (** now we have Dr CKLaw & Dr Joe Leung serving as members)
  5. Health & Welfare Bureau衛生福利局 (policy and/or legislation initiation)
  6. Social Welfare Department (SWD) 社會福利署 (implement policies laid down by Bureau & LC)
  7. Advisory Committee on Social Work Training and Manpower Planning (ACSWTMP) 社會工作教育及訓練咨詢委員會 (including all department heads of universities providing social work training)
  8. Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) 香港社會服務聯會--社聯 (govt recognized representative role in coordinating different NGOs in giving policy feedback to government) (** our Dept has a number of staff actively involved in the HKCSSs work)
  9. Hong Kong Social Workers Association (SWA, 香港社會工作人員協會--社協) policy critique
  10. Hong Kong Social Workers General Union (SWGU, 香港社會工作人員總工會--社總) policy critique



[1-6 formal channels; 7-9 informal channels]

(at local level, the District Council [previously called District Board DB] will also be consulted on the implementation of welfare services)

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Different levels of policy paper/plans:


  1. White paper:policy paper for laying down the major basic principles of the government in provision of welfare, usually published after the consultative green paper, 4 White Papers: 1965, 1973, 1979, 1991 "Social Welfare into the 1990's".
  2. 5-year Plan: 5-year rolling plan of various social welfare programs, review biannually by both SWD and voluntary sector (HKCSS).
  3. Program Plan: detailed plan of a particular social welfare service, e.g. personal service for youth, elderly, rehabilitation, social security....etc.



The 3 types of plans provide different levels of analysis and planning for social welfare service provision;



[ ???? Issue for discussion: Is there enough public participation or professional input in drafting and planning of various plans ????? ]



Important policy papers and reports

White Paper (overall)

Social Security




1965 1970 Heppell Report 1977 White Paper 1977 Program Plan 1977 Program Plan
1979 1977 Green Paper 1984 1st Review 1993 Youth Charter  
1990   1987 2nd Review 1993 Review of Children & Youth Centre Service  
    1991 3rd Review    
    1992 Green Paper    
    1994 Review    



Social welfare planning approaches in Hong Kong



Financing of Social Welfare in Hong Kong


4 major sources of funding for social welfare: (1) government (subvention), (2) donations (from overseas or local), (3) program /membership fees; (4) independent funds (e.g. Lotteries, Keswick Foundation, etc.)

The government adopts different subvention practices at different periods of time:



A trend for NGOs to change from depending mainly on overseas funding (mainly in 1950-60s) ----> to rely heavily on government. subvention ----> will eventually change to fee charging in future [issue for discussion:: why doesn't the govt. run the service by herself when services are totally funded by the govt?



Who are involved in the provision of services in Hong Kong ? (directly or indirectly)



Non-government organization (NGO)

Organizations SWD (mainly statutory services and some family service with professional social worker & CSSA without prof. soc.wk);

& other departments (non-social-work) e.g. Municipal Councils also provide libraries, Educ.Dept., Recreation & Sports Dept. also provides such activities; Police also organizes JPC;

HKCSS & other non-HKCSS member agencies, with or without professional social workers (e.g. religious & other traditional philanthropic organizations, clansmen & kaifong associations, etc.)
Funding source public revenue & some fee-charging Government subvention, overseas fund, Community Chest, Lotteries Fund, fund raising, other funds, fee charging from clients/service users


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 (e.g. Community Chest, Tung Wah & PoLeungKuk fund-raising, etc.)


Responsibility of welfare: Individual versus Society

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[This set of notes is prepared by Ernest Chui]