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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



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.”

National 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 1998” by 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:

  • Social welfare is conceived in a broad sense, which is also called “social service” which includes

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

  • “Social welfare” if defined in a narrow sense refers to ‘personal welfare’.




  • substituting functions of extended family and kinship system; - provides affectional, developmental, socialization, rehabilitative needs;
  • facilitating economic growth - human resource development (e.g. by education); producing vs consuming society resources;
  • sustaining individuals in periods of dependency (e.g. sickness, disability, maternity, retirement, unemployment,);



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:

  • 1942 Beveridge Report paved the way for welfare reform -- i.e. increasing government role in welfare provision;
  • post-war Keynesian economic theory dominated - state intervention in economy to boost demand;
  • closely related to economic, political and socio-cultural development of society.



3. Models of welfare:


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

Free-market capitalistic, individualistic ----ΰ socialist ideals, ‘welfare state’ (福利國家)






Charity, assistance

Citizen right

Basis of provision

Selective (e.g. means test, eligibility)

Universal entitlement

Social stigma

May carry stigma,

No stigma


Free market, individual responsibility

Collectivist, state responsibility





  • 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;
  • functions or emphasis of welfare is largely determined by philosophy and value preferences of the government, social and political situation and economic affordability, inter-related functions of services, complementary roles of services at different levels;



5 . it can have different levels of COVERAGE:

  • from the poor and most needy to all citizens, in different socio-economic strata;
  • from almsgiving, charity to social development in general;
  • from particular to general; from selective to universal;



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

  • individual, personal; fiscal; occupational; social (including all 5 systems of social services);
  • classification by role/ functions: (above) :* range from "revolutionary" to "social control" role;
  • classification by targets: elderly, youth, family, disabled, offenders, communities, women, adults.....etc.;
  • classification by objectives:

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 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;



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:

  • proportions of the various components of agriculture, industries (light vs heavy), commerce, service, finance...etc.;
  • ratio of public (government) and private sector in entire economy; or government's control of economy;

3. level of productivity in society:

  • labour productivity - quantity (population size, structure) and quality (education and skill level, orientation to work) - wealth of nation (Gross National Product GNP);
  • a higher productivity can produce greater GDP/GNP to finance welfare,

4. government financial policy & situation:

  • source of revenue - tax base, tax structure & policy;
  • fiscal policy, balance of payment; and monetary policy---control over the economy
  • higher tax can finance more welfare;

5. citizens' mode of consumption:

  • culture, value system, family functioning....etc.
  • greater personal saving will reduce government’s welfare burden;





1. structure of society:

  • social cleavages - conflicts (e.g. race, religion, economic situation, sex.....etc.);
  • configuration/structure of political power;
  • more pluralistic society encourages more welfare for different sectors of people;

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

  • pluralistic competition or autocracy ?
  • a government without citizens’ legitimization may provide more welfare to appease citizens;

3. structure of the polity:

  • mutual check-and-balance among the 3 branches of authority - legislature, executive, and judiciary ?
  • a more powerful legislature may force the executive branch to provide more welfare (to appease the electors);

4. political culture:

  • civil society developed or authoritarianism ? are the people participatory or apathetic ?
  • a more participatory citizenry may force government to provide more welfare;

5. salience and coverage of government intervention:

  • extent of government influence/penetration into citizen's living;




SOCIAL domain:

1. population:

  • quantity & structure ("dependency ratio", productivity);
  • quality (education, skill, technology, work ethic...etc);
  • a more productive population may produce higher GDP to finance more welfare;

2. social structure (of the civil society):

  • family structure and functions;
  • civic organizations (e.g. kaifong associations, kinship or locality associations, trade unions/ professional associations, pressure groups, religious organizations ....etc.) - numbers, activity and function in society;
  • stratification - along wealth, race, religion, sex, prestige....etc. (the 3 "P"s : property, prestige, power);

3. culture:

  • value system, norms, moral standards, traditions; religions; political culture, civic awareness....etc.;
  • a ‘self-reliant’ culture may reduce demand for government welfare;




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 ?);



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 there’s 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 gov’t)
  4. Social Welfare Advisory Committee (SWAC) 社會福利咨詢委員會 (advising on government’s 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 (gov’t recognized representative role in coordinating different NGOs in giving policy feedback to government) (** our Dept has a number of staff actively involved in the HKCSS’s 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)

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





1970 Heppell Report

1977 White Paper

1977 Program Plan

1977 Program Plan


1977 Green Paper

1984 1st Review

1993 Youth Charter




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

  • by target groups: handicapped, old people, youth, family, women, .....
  • by population: neighbourhoods, areas, districts, region, .....
  • by social problems: drug addiction, prostitution, housing, violent crime, alcoholism
  • by division of labour:: medical service, financial service, housing, transportation, education, welfare service



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:

  • Standard Cost subvention: i.e. a standard rate of subsidy is calculated according to the operating expenses (e.g. salaries for social workers, program fees) e.g. OR, FLE, NLCDP, School SW, Family Counseling, C&Y Centre)
  • Model System: provided on the basis of recognized costs of the unit
  • Discretionary grant: most NGOs; Deficiency grant: e.g. SARDA, hospitals, schools
  • E.N.D. Formula - Essential, Necessary, Desirable 3 types of services with decreasing priorities of subsidy; Category I (100% subsidy) & Category II (70%)
  • 1995 SWD started to consider revising subvention policy, proposed “unit grant”, “funding & service agreement”; 1998-2000 Lump Sum Grant



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)


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,

  • some famous service agencies are: Po Leung Kuk (保良局), Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (東華三院), Hong Kong Caritas (明愛), HK Federation of Youth Groups (青年協會), Boys and Girls’ Clubs Association (小童群益會), HK Family Welfare Society (香港家庭福利會)…
  • (you can obtain a list of HKCSS members from the Council’s annual report)


(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


[This set of notes is prepared by Ernest Chui]