Alex Akhup and Biswaranajan Tripura
IJDTSA Vol.4, Issue 1, No.5 pp.63 to 75, February, 2019

Revisiting the Method of Social Welfare Administration in Social Work Education

Published On: Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Taking into consideration the local changing context, the subject matter of social welfare administration as method course in social work education in India has evolved over a period of time. It has focused on strengthening the responsibility of state in securing welfare services for vulnerable sections of the society within the over all national goal of building a society based on social justice, equality and equity from time to time. This paper attempts to revisit this subject in relation to the changing context of welfare needs, role of the state and classroom pedagogy in social work education. The paper further attempts to argue for a reflexive understanding of the content, pedagogical processes and social work method sourced directly from the field.

From Human Service Administration to Welfare Administration-Tracing its History

Like the other method courses in social work education, SWA also has its primary origin from the anglo-saxon context (UK and America in particular). The methods then were perceived to have been grouped broadly under two categories, a) direct service/practice and b) indirect service or practice. Human service administration was perceived to be an indirect service/practice.

Beginning in 1874, the proceeding and meetings of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections reflected on the genuine concern of people, their social problems, and the delivery of services. It is observed that many of the minutes of this Conference are related to administrative problems and issues. Later in 1897, Mary E. Richmond, then general secretary of the Charities Organization of the Baltimore, Maryland, also made a similar suggestion at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in the United States emphasizing on the need for competent personnel administrator in the human service administration (Bruno, 1994, p.152).

As social work education started to be perceived in pragmatic terms, in 1901 the University of Chicago began a series of course on social welfare. It was later formalized in 1908 with starting of Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, probably the then forerunner of the School of Social Service Administration. A little later in 1904, the Boston School for social workers got organized to teach administration (ibid). Those courses and programmes focused on the knowledge and skills related to administration. By 1914, however the course on administration was offered in some schools of social work. The World War I and great depression further added stimulus in formalizing it to provide leadership in administering social service programmes.

This pave the way for the rise of several national agencies, such as Young Men Catholic Association(YMCA) and Young Women Catholic Association(YWCA) which further led to the need for bringing standard and qualification in practice for their administrators. Towards this, Elwood Street (1933, p.491) observed,

The subject of administration has been much neglected in social agencies. Social workers who are entirely without training in administration, though competent otherwise, are given important executive responsibilities. Their governing also made up of experienced business men and capable women, often known nothing of the problems of administration in the agencies for which they are trustees, and are not willing to give detailed attention to them. The average social agency, public or private, could probably increase its efficiency and economy by fifty percent through utilizing information now readily available on principles and methods of effective administration. This would mean a reduction in cost of service, or an increase in the amount or adequacy of service rendered”.

By 1979, thirty-six schools of social work offered a major(degree) in administration. For example, the University of Washington offered a two-year major in administration. It is understood that most graduates who passed out with a specialization in administration secured the highest salary and employability. A follow up study at the University of Michigan School of social work showed that 91 percent of the respondents were employed as social workers (Radin, 1976).

Presently (2016), some of the Universities we have mentioned earlier still continues teaching administration of social service as major/core subject (as observed in the present day prospectus of their official websites). The University of Chicago operates as school of social service administration and major concentration as social administration (2016); University of Michigan as management of human services; Boston school of social work as human service management; University of Washington as administration and policy practices (APP); Trinity college, Dublin as Working in human service organization; and Gotenberg University, Sweden as social work service users participation and organization.

Social Welfare Administration Course in India: Method of Social Work Practice

In 1940, while major thrust was given on family and child welfare, medical and psychiatric social work, juvenile and adult delinquency and industrial relations in the first graduate school of social work, social service administration and social research were positioned as important skills. Field work was seen as learning through direct participation in welfare activities.

Further, the Sir Dorabjee Tata Trust, the holding trustee of the Sir Dorabjee Tata Graduate School of Social work at the same time also donated for a Chair in Social Administration at the London School of Economics where it was proposed that the chair was to inquire into the causes of poverty so that professional social work could then formulate its paradigm of intervention to tackle poverty in India (Bodhi and Tripura, 2013).

After independence, poverty was identified as major socio-economic problem implying a need for professional human service providers to respond to the problem at the field level. In this backdrop, 1947, the Indian Conference of Social Work passed a resolution at its annual conference, recommending for the establishment of a Ministry of Social Welfare at the centre and the Directorate of Social Welfare at the state level (Nanavati, IJSW, year cannot be retrieved). During such time, the government of India in its five year plan introduced initial unique administrative machinery consisting of an autonomous board named Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) in August 1953. Similarly the state welfare advisory board were establishing in the state level. The main purpose of the CSWB was to provide financial and technical assistance to voluntary organization working in the field of social welfare. This created an opportunity for trained social work administrators to engage with government welfare initiatives through voluntary agencies.

The emphasis on social welfare administration further got strengthened with the establishment of the department of social welfare administration at TISS in 1971. Its main purpose was to offer education that provides an analytical understanding of the issues related to the policies and programmes of organizations engaged in social welfare and development, and skills for undertaking appropriate interventions (as stated in Prospectus, 2003-05). This department consequently evolved as a Unit for Research and Consultancy on Social Policy and Social Welfare Administration in 1978. The Unit was established with the objective of conducting research, providing technical assistance, undertaking training programmes, workshops and seminars, teaching courses and publishing research materials in the areas of Social Policy and Social Welfare Administration, with special reference to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other socially, educationally and economically disadvantaged populations. The Unit also undertook research, consultancy and training programmes, seminars and workshops in the areas of forestry, environmental issues, management of non-profit organizations, and qualitative research methodology.

The report of the Second Review Committee on Social Work Education submitted its report in 1980 entitled, “Review of Social work Education in India”. Interestingly this report marked the shift of focus from remedial’ to ‘development’ where social work practice was to respond and assist the majority of the Indian population and not just a peripheral group. There were also decisions taken to introduce courses on social action, social policy and social Administration (Bodhi and Tripura, 2013).

Presently, course on social welfare administration in Social Work Education is taught under different subject titles with a focus on training professional administrator for human service. For instances, Delhi School of Social Work teaches the similar subject as administration of welfare and development services; Jamia Milia Islamia as social welfare management and organization dynamics; Loyola college of social service as administration of human service organization; Loyola college Chennai as social work administration. However, the debates on whether social welfare administration as a compulsory method course to be taught within social work curriculum still remains. For example, the Social Work Programme of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) does not include social work administration as a method course.

Unraveling the Content and Pedagogy

Phase I

Based on a available information on Social Welfare Administration sourced in prospectus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (School of Social Work) from 2003 to 2016, it is noticed that the changes in the shift of the perspective and content of Social Welfare Administration (SWA) course as an attempt to upgrade to the changing context and need could be broadly observed at three phases. The pre-restructuring stage (before 2006 in TISS) stands out as the first phase. At this stage, the focus was made on administration of social welfare organisations and taught across all students of the different departments as an important allied skill to the department specific domain. In particular, prior to 2003 until 2005, a similar method course was taught to the students of social work as a common course during I and II semesters under a title, ‘Administration of Social Welfare Organizations”. It was taught as one credit in each semester.

Most of the teachers teaching this course were from the department of social welfare administration. Normally, the students of this department were expected to perform the following functions: project/programme planning and implementation, mobilisation of resources for project/programme implementation, management of on-going programme implementation, team building, coordination of various activities, research and preparation of reports, and maintenance of correspondence and public relations. This course is related to various courses taught in the Institute such as;

  • SWA 1 Public Welfare Programmes and Administration

  • SWA 2 Voluntary Action In Development

  • SWA 3 Project Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation – II

  • SWA 4 Management Of Social Welfare Organisations

  • SWA 5 Political Economy Of Social Welfare

  • SWA 6 Management Of Social Welfare Organisations – II

  • SWA 7 Financial Management In Social Welfare Organisations

  • SWA 8 Social Entrepreneurship

  • SWA 9 Management Of Change, Innovation And Conflict

  • SWA 10 Advocacy In Social Works

  • SWA 11 Social Welfare Administration Seminar

It is important to situate the historical context of the method/skill course taught as administration of social welfare organisations across students of departments to students of M. A. in Social Work in the Institute to understand the present curriculum and pedagogy. In the early periods, this course was taught as BC 4 Administration Of Social Welfare Organisations I. The following are the themes covered under this course; Characteristics of human service organisations and social welfare organisations. Organisational design and structure in the environmental context. Service delivery. Boards/committees, professional other staff. Staff–client relations, public relations. Theory of administrative process. POSDCORB, supervision, office administration and records management. Registration of organizations, constitution, memorandum of association. Communication in organizations: types, essential components, barriers, effective communication. Programme planning, project formulation, plan implementation, monitoring and evaluation, staff development.

Phase II

Social Welfare Administration as course taught to the students of Social Work showed considerable change in terms of the orientation and themes covered since 2006. This could be considered as the second phase, in which Social work programme got restructured in 2005 and the new restructured programme was offered in 2006 anchored under thematic Concentrations, replacing the department structures.

In this phase, this course came under modular arrangement of the practice courses having one credit. It was taught as one of the social work practice methods during the first semester. Other methods courses taught in this semester are casework, group work and community organization. The Social Work Administration focused on training professional social workers as administrator and managers for welfare service in the domain of both government and non-profit organizations. The basic content of the course is given below; Organizational Theories; Organisational Development (stages and process); Organisational Structures and designs; POSDCORB; Registration of an organisation (acts and Laws); Constitution and Memorandum of Association; Project formulation and programme planning; planning, formulation, monitoring, and evaluation; Critiques of current existing practices.

It is important to note there was also a certificate programme in social welfare administration. Subsequently, social policy and social welfare administration courses were also taught as a knowledge based/thematic concentration during the IV semester. The thematic concentration comprises of four courses such as C 2.4.1: Poverty, Social Exclusion and Policy Analysis in Public Welfare; 2.4.2: Political Economy of Social Welfare; 2.4.3: Social Policy and Social Advocacy; and 2.4.4: Governance for Human Development. Later on, after 2007-09, it was titled as social policy and planning without much change on its content.

Subsequently, there was also a skill-based concentration as management of non-profit organization. This concentration comprises of courses such as C3.1.1: Governance of Non-Profit Organisations/, C 3.1.2: Organisational Behaviour in Non-Profit Organisations, C 3.1.3: Strategic Management for Non-Profit Organisations, C3.1.4: Financial Management in Non-Profit Organisations.

During this period Social Welfare Administration as method course was taught giving emphasis on organization management in social sector. The themes covered under this are;

  • Introduction to SWA and related Concepts

  • Organizational Structures and Designs

  • Administrative Process

  • Registration of NGO

  • Drafting Documents for Registration

  • Program Planning and Project Formulation

  • Project Monitoring and Evaluation

  • Organizational Development Process

Phase III

In the third phase (after 2012), there was further restructuring of the Social Work MA programme and the subject on social welfare was taught as method of practice having two credits. In this stage, there was a strengthening of the perspective and orientation of the content and pedagogy. It is observed that a shift of approach was made from merely focusing on organisation management to including the context of the welfare subjects. It moved away from merely focusing on the beneficiaries of welfare services to subjects of welfare in a more constitutive and institution in sense of welfare system. The emphasis gave space to the primacy of context and the field. The field as dynamic space generates subjectivities, agencies and capabilities. The principle of Social Justice as given in the Constitution became the guiding values of welfare services. In this scheme, lectures and discussion focusing on the context of welfare became important to build on specific skills for administration and management of welfare for both the government and non government organizations. The classroom transaction were strengthened by case studies and group presentations taking the student’s first Semester Fieldwork experience as the unit of understanding.

As understood from the minutes of the meeting of teachers teaching the course, there are three aspects considered important in the content of the course, a) this course should not be confined only in details of administration for agency/organization but move beyond to build competency and skills required while working with any agency/NGO as professionals, b) there was an understanding arrived at among teachers that students should be oriented to understand context/structures, state welfare framework, principles, values and ethics, and c) emphasis should be made on building skills required for direct administration of organizations on its everyday activities.

In fact, during 2012-13 emphasis was on understanding the larger frameworks that relates to welfare state through case study, and sectors involved to administer these processes. Therefore, there was a fundamental shift of teaching focus from agency specific administration to theorization of welfare state, its welfare framework and various schemes and programmes. Given below are the themes covered under this;

  • Introduction to Course: Context, Framework, Lesson Plan & Assignments

  • Why Social Welfare Administration: A Politico Historical Perspectives: A geopolitical conception of the world: Political Theory in Practice

  • Emergence of Welfare States : From Westphalia to indigenous peoples conceptions

  • Empire and Imperialism : From colonialism to American Hegemony

  • Structure of the Indian Nation State: From a politico legal perspective

  • Comparative Social Welfare Systems : Practice from Across Continents

  • Sectors of Welfare in India : A Case Study under one Ministry GOI

  • Organisational Development : Phases of development and Outcome Budget

  • The Non Profit Sector: Rules, Regulations : Charity Commissioner, MOA

  • Quasi Welfare Intervention: A case of Manual Scavenging

  • Project Proposal Writing

Since then, classroom pedagogy has been making every effort to strengthen this course from the overall perspective of social welfare administration. This knowledge and skills of administration as in Government sector or the management as in the private sector are situated within the welfare context of our country. This is reflected in the themes covered as given below:

  • Introduction to the course, outline, assignments, terminologies

  • Outlining the theoretical framework: social justice and social welfare

  • Social Welfare Programs in India

  • Basic framework to analyse social welfare programs and policies

  • Voluntary sector in India

  • Task environment/organisational design elements of Voluntary organizations

  • Registering an NGO

  • Registering an NGO and legal framework-legalities

  • Organizational Behavior

  • Project Management

  • Project Proposal Writing

  • Project Proposal Writing and Budgeting

Critical Reflections

Based on the overall experience of teaching this course, it is observed that there are two areas that needs to be problematised to strengthen the subject matter and pedagogy as elaborated below:

a) Social Work Administration, Social Welfare Administration or Business Administration

When the teaching assignment came to us, we took sometime to understand this content and its pedagogical process. In particular, we were concerned about the linking of the classroom learning and the field practice and other related aspects of understanding of the field, fieldwork and social administration, in many sense similar to what is expressed in Vyas (2015). However, this concern became a guiding framework of our pedagogical engagement with the subject. It oriented us towards taking the students to build competencies and skills to secure social welfare for the people.

It took us sometime to understand the course as method course and how understanding of welfare context becomes very crucial to be a professional social worker. Over time, we began to realise that this course was aimed at enabling students to appreciate the framework of social welfare programme, policies and transaction of the policies to the ground level strongly founded on Constitutional principles of social justice.

However, the ubiquitous emphasis over the title of the course, ‘Social Work Administration’ or ‘Social Welfare Administration’ remain a little longer in our understanding. On observation, it is known this question is related to larger issues of discipline per se, the understanding of professional discipline. In recent times, clarity has come as the course is slowly shaping its view on the responsibility of the state on welfare and well being of the people. It is noted in the discussion of the course teachers that naming the course as ‘social welfare administration’ takes into consideration the Indian context.

Moreover, social welfare administration aims at the process of transforming the social policies into social service (Skidmore, 1983). Kidneigh (1950, p.58) defines social welfare administration as the “process of transforming social policy into social services… a two way process: (i)…transforming policy into concrete social services and (ii) the use of experience in recommending modification of policy” . In the recent government moves, it is observed that corporate houses have also been assigned a unique role by the government of India. As per Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Rules, 2014, they are asked to make a contribution in the welfare activities. This move has implication on the role of the state on the welfare. It raises questions of ‘retreating of state on welfare’ and ‘partnership model’. In such a shifts of focus by Government, the debate between the public and private is bound to pave way for replacement of the concept ‘administration’ with ‘management’. However, this approach would take us closer to business management framework. Unlike business management, the most important function of social welfare administration is to deploy various resources effectively in order to sustain and promote their goals and values by providing the best possible services to ensure social work interventions (Tsui and Cheung, 2009, p.148). Whereas, business administration is a pursuit of maximum profit with minimum cost. However, at the ground reality, corporate social responsibility is here to stay in social work education. Many social work professionals today also pursue career in Corporate Social Responsibility. This ultimately highlights the role of social work education in ‘humanising capital’. The significance of this discussion in many ways is observed in Tsui and Cheung (2009, p.148). In this, attempt is made to re-establish the importance of social welfare administration. It indicates that social welfare administration is defined by the basic values of social justice and equality with the overall aim for establishment of good and just society.

b) Context to Method-Is Social Welfare Administration a Method

How do we position Social Welfare administration as a method of social work today? Is there a need to focus on method and how do we resolve the question of being positivist and prescriptive (Vyas 2015). When do we begin to start from the context (Saldanha, 2008 and bodhi 2016). What about the focus on the emergence of the subjectivities, the political subject (Jha, 2015). How do we contextualise the problem solving approach? Why do we feel sense of hierarchy of methods creeping in our system. As of now social work method is positioned as way of doing or doing/engaging by intervening on certain issues. Should a practitioner as social work professionals then approach intervention through the set/ prescribed methods? Will the method precedes/decides interventions or there are other ways of doing; do we then have a multiple methods. These questions are a reality for us and we need to encounter them as any discipline would. Towards this, engagement with the field (context), sites of practice and the emerging theory, values and skills and ethics will be very crucial as also observed in other social sciences disciplines. This brings us to the realm of methodology.

In the emerging context, Social Work Education needs to problematise the method, field, or sites of practice that decides the intervention. Towards this, it is worthy to note that there has been some attempts to bring practice base theory (Dave, 2015), emerging political subject (Jha, 2015), contextualisation (Saldanha, 2008), field (bodhi, 2015) etc. As observed in these, there is a trend towards understanding the methods from context approach. The context refers to a dynamic, fluid confluence of time, person and space experienced in the here and now (also mentioned in bodhi, 2011, p.4559).

Proposed Curriculum and Pedagogical Framework

In this backdrop, it can be concluded that Social Welfare Administration as a ‘Method’ in social work education today needs to include the idea of the field, practice and basic skills. In fact, this course as a basic course, should be designed and taught to engage students with understanding social welfare administration within social work profession. In social work, the practice of social welfare administration constitutes an important site of practice. This practice has been influential in shaping the role and responsibility of the welfare state from the very inception of the profession itself. It has been a fundamental part of state and non-state response to issues of society such as poverty and inequality. It should be formulated on premises that constitutes ethical values towards realizing a just society where the state exercises its role proactively to alleviate the growing impoverishment, inequality and human misery.

In particular, the course should be positioned to unravel and understand the welfare context, policies and programs for the sections of the society most in need. Emphasis should be made on building human service professionals with a people’s perspective, strategies and skills to translate welfare programs into effective human services. It should engage critically on issues concerning the capacities to work with social organizations, government and non-government and welfare programs for the people. Besides, emphasis could be given to develop certain practical skills of organizational and program administration. Hence, students are oriented to the fundamentals of organizational administration and management including registration of voluntary agencies, related legal procedures, project proposal formulation, project planning, management and evaluation.


Therefore, it is pertinent that Social Welfare Administration as method should be context-based competency and skill matrix content and pedagogy that is rooted in the field or the sites of practice and the identification of units of intervention thereafter. It is from this understanding, in our opinion, that Social Welfare Administration can be posited as a compulsory method course for the students of social work discipline.


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