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Block - I UNIT I



Social Work is recent branch of knowledge which deals with the scientific solutions and treatment of the psycho social problems. This unit is titled Social Work- meaning and concepts give us an understanding about the background of social work. It extends to clarifying the concepts in relation to the social welfare, social security and other concepts. It also explains the nature and scope of social work. This unit concludes by explaining characteristics of social work.


After studying this unit students will be able to:

  1. Understand the meaning and definition of social work
  2. Explain the nature of social work
  3. Analyze the scope of social work
  4. Highlight the objectives of social work
  5. Clarify the concept of social work in relation to the other concepts
  6. Explain the characteristics of social work


Social work at its early stage of development thrived on the benevolence of prosperous people. In India social work as a profession began in the early 19th century and its progress rapid and smooth. But the professionalism is yet to be recognized fully and the practice is also not so vibrant. In the ancient times, the poor, the physically challenged, handicapped and the socially excluded were looked after by their families, castes, communities and religious institutions, but the industrial growth, the changing roles of social security and welfare system in relation to these needy individuals. Malfunctioning appeared in the area of interaction between the individuals, families, group and their environment.

Social Work in the modern context is a professional service based on scientific knowledge and skills. It is also related with the other sciences like Sociology, Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Anthropology and jurisprudence.

Social Work is unlike the early practice, attempts to help the individuals, groups and communities to get a clear insight into the problems which strengthens their ego to face conditions as reality and then tries to improve them. At the same time social work attempts to mobilize social forces to resolve those social and economic situations that lead to ill health, mental suffering frustration and social behaviour. To make the concept of social work more clear, few important definitions given by various authors are quoted below.


Social work is that branch of study which deals with human problems in society and assists in understanding democratic principles oriented towards securing for all people a decent standard of living, acceptability, affiliation, recognition and status. It is a process to help the people to help themselves.

Social Work is a professional service, based on scientific knowledge and skill in human relations, which assists individuals, alone or in groups, to obtain social and personal satisfaction and independence. - Friedlander

Social work, help an individual in his social functioning. It is based on certain knowledge foundation, calls for skill in human relationships on the part of its practitioner, and has a set of values furnishing its philosophical base - Khinduka


Social work is recent branch of knowledge which is deals with the scientific solution and treatment of the psycho­social problems. Its main aim is to increase human happiness in general. Therefore, it is oriented toward the attainment of two ends, first, the creation those conditions which help to make a more satisfying way of life possible, and second, the development within the individual and the community as well as of capacities which help to live that life more adequately and creatively.

According to Helen Wintner, "The prime function of social work is to give assistance to individuals in regard to the difficulties, they encounter in their use of an organised group service or in their performance as a member of an organised group."

Prof. Herbart Bisno has defined the social in the following words, "Social work is the provision designed to aid individuals in single or in groups, in coping with present or future social and psychological obstacles that prevent or like to prevent full and effective participation in society; such services are limited on the one hand by agency function and the worker's competence; on the other, by already established profession's well defined functional area and by certain practices and prejudices".

According to Indian Conference of Social Work, "Social Work is a welfare activity based on humanitarian philosophy, scientific knowledge and technical skills or helping individuals or group or community to live a rich and full life".


Objectives are statements or formulations of what we are trying to do in social work. Friedlander mentioned three objectives of social work Change in painful social situations, Development of constructive forces and provides opportunities For experiencing democratic and humanistic behaviour.

In general, social work has the following objectives: a.To solve psycho social problems b.To fulfill humanitarian needs c.To create self sufficiency, d.Strengthening and making harmonious social relations e.Develop democratic values f.Provide opportunities for development and social progress g.Conscientise the community on various issues and problems h.Provide socio-legal aid i.Bring change in social system for social development. Apart from the above, Professional social worker can extend their services in the fields of agriculture, economic, education, environment, health, etc.

1.5 SCOPE OF SOCIAL WORK The functional philosophy of our modern century has been manifested in terms of social work. Its principal aim is to solve the psycho-social problems which obstruct the individual and social advancement. But its scope is gradually expanding. It is now international and inter-racial in scope. Its methodology is useful in solving the human problems of the unhappy. In the present society, social work provides many services for the people, especially children, women, disabled, handicapped, destitute and dependents. The various programmes of social work are carried out through the following services: I.Public assistance II.Social Insurance III.Family services IV.Child Welfare Services V.Community Welfare Services VI.Welfare Services for Handicapped VII.Women welfare services VIII.Labour Welfare Services

(i) Public Assistance Public assistance is kind of help which is provided in accordance to economic and social needs of the applicant. It depends upon certain conditions and legalities. Therefore, public assistance is granted on the basis of means test. In some countries, certain amount of public assistance is given to old, blind, disabled and destitute persons. Some times, institutional care is also provided to the needy persons. (ii) Social Insurance Like public assistance, social insurance also covers certain contingencies such as old-age, unemployment, industrial accidents and occupational diseases. It does not insist upon means test. Benefits are granted to only those persons who pay a certain amount of contribution. It is partly faced by the state. In its practical shape, social insurances covers certain risks such as medical care and in times of illness, medical care and cash allowance during employment injury, pension in old-age after retirement, cash allowance to wife and children or dependent in case of death and allowances during the period of employment. Under social insurance, the benefits of applicant are pre-determined. They are based on legal provisions. (iii) Family Services Family represents both an institution as well as an association. It is the oldest as well as enduring among all social institutions. As a primary group, the family is the first and most universal of all forms of associations. Social work renders a great role in the sphere of family organisation. It gives assistance and counselling towards family and individual relations, marriage, health and economic problems. In this field, the social worker bears the responsibility of establishing harmonious relationship between the individual and his family. Thus, by the way of assistance and advice, the social worker has to play a very important role in the sphere of family organisation. (iv) Child Welfare Services Social workers also provide many welfare services for children. These include residential institutions for the care, protection, education and rehabilitation of socially handicapped children, viz. orphans, destitute, founding’s, waifs and strays, children of unmarried mothers. Child welfare also includes temporary homes for children, day care centres, recreational and cultural centres and holiday homes for children of low income family. (v) Welfare Services for Women Under these services, residential institutions and reception centers are established for the care al9.d protection, training and rehabilitation of destitute women and those in distress and rescued women. Further, w9men welfare services also include maternity centres, condensed course of training, hostels for working women and family counselling agencies. (vi) Welfare Service for the Handicapped These services includes institutions for the care and rehabilitation of physically and mentally handicapped, hostels for the working handicapped, a small production units for the handicapped; special schools for mentally retarded and infirmaries for the chronic ill. Now-a-days handicapped persons are also called as differently able persons. (vii) Community Welfare Services The community welfare services include establishment of urban services of community centres including welfare aspect of slum improvement, clearance, employment dormitories and night shelters, holiday homes for children and community welfare services in rural areas. (viii) Medical Social Work Under the medical social work, welfare services are provided to patients in hospitals and medical institutions. Medical social workers help in such services to their families in clinics, hospitals and other health care centres. These workers assist doctors by providing information’s about the social and economic background of patient. Many medical social workers specialize in a particular type area. These includes child care, the care of dying patients and counselling, victims suffering from certain diseases, such as cancer or kidney failure, etc. (ix) International Social Services Social work is also international in scope. At the international level it includes the direction, supervision and administration of welfare services. The organisations rendering social services at the international level are, The World Health Organisation, The U.N. Technical Assistance Programme, The International Conference of Social Work, The World Federation of Mental Health and The International Red Cross Committee. Besides, the I.L.O. supervises the welfare programmes for industrial labours.

1.6 CHARACTERISTICS OF SOCIAL WORK Social work in its theoretical aspect is based on the knowledge of human relations with regard to the solution of psycho-social problems. In its applied aspect, social work is a professional service based on scientific method and skills. It seeks to approach the social work scientifically. In the field of social sciences, social work occupies a very important place. The following characteristics reveal its distinctiveness and peculiarity.

(i) Professional Service In its present form, social work is a professional service which assists individuals, groups and communities. On the one hand, it attempts to help the individuals in the social milieu and on the other hand it removes the barriers which obstruct people from, achieving the best which they are capable. (ii) Based on Scientific Knowledge Social service is based on scientific knowledge and technical skills. It has its own methodology which distinguishes it from other types of welfare activities. (iii) Humanitarian Philosophy Social work drives its inspiration from the humanitarian philosophy. It seeks happiness and property for the individuals, groups and community. (iv) Solution of Psycho-Social Problems Social work aim to solve the psycho-social obstacles which prevent the effective functioning of groups, community and society.

(a) Social Work and Some Other Concepts There are many other terms which appear synonymous to social work. In general discourse, these terms are often confused with social work. Therefore, a clear cut distinction between such concepts and the social work is essential. These concepts are as follows: (i) Social Work and Religious Services From the traditional point of view, help and assistance rendered to poor and destitute person due to religious inspiration is known as social work. According to this concept, one can obtain the cherished goal of religion by way of giving arms and assistance to the helpless and needy persons. But this concept does not encourage to the modern approach of social work. Although this system provides security to an individual during his helpless condition, yet it fails to solve the problem permanently. In the modern society, problems of disorganisation and maladjustment are very complicated as such the traditional approach has been regarded as inadequate. (ii) Social Work and Social Assistance Social work and social assistance are also used as synonymous terms. Therefore, social work is sometimes confused with social assistance which is provided to the people at the time of natural calamities such as floods and famine. During such calamities, social workers also provide assistance to the needy people. But such help cannot be regarded as social work.

It is because assistance to the needy is purely an According to Helen Wintner, "The prime function of social work is to give assistance to individuals in regard to the difficulties, they encounter in their use of an organised group service or in their performance as a member of an organised group."

iii) Social Work and Social Security Social work in the modern context is a professional service based on scientific knowledge and skills. On the other hand by social security we mean a programme of protection provided by society against certain contingencies of life. These contingencies include sickness, unemployment, old-age dependency and accident, etc. In other words, social security can be understood as the security that society furnishes through appropriate organisations against certain risks.

(c) Social Work-Private and Public

In its practical aspect, social work assumes two main forms, namely, private and public. Social work performed by individual in their private capacity and by voluntary organisation is known as private social work. Such voluntary organisations get only financial aid from the government. On the other hand, public social work is performed by the government.

(i) Characteristics of Private Social Work

Private social work has its own characteristics. These characteristics are as follows: (1) The private agencies are very efficient in their working. They are regulated by selfless persons. (2) The social work programmes undertaken by private agencies are free from bureaucratic defects. In fact, the private organisations have played a tremendous role in the field of social work. (3) Workers emerged and engaged in public agencies are not very efficient but in private sectors social workers are very efficient. They seek public co­operation without any difficulty.

(ii) Characteristics of Public Social Work Social work carried on by public agencies also reveals certain characteristics, these are as follows:

(1) The public agencies of social work are regulated by the government. Therefore, these agencies are financially sound. (2) The public agencies employ workers who are fully trained and experienced workers. The central point of their work is public welfare. (3) The public agencies are regulated in accordance to the provisions of certain state acts and laws. Consequently, these organisations are well organised. (iii) Limitations of Public and Private Social Work The private as well as public agencies of social work suffer from many limitations, chief among them are as follows: I. Private Agencies Financially, the private agencies are not very sound. They depend on contributions, state grants and assistance. Social workers engaged in the private agencies are low paid. Lastly, private agencies have very limited resources. Therefore, they could not undertake social work programmes on an extensive scale. 2. Public Agencies Public agencies are organised by the government. Therefore, they suffer from legal formalities. Secondly, they are organised on bureaucratic lines as such suffer from red tapism.


1.7.1 Social Service

Broadly speaking, the term service means "an act of helpful activity; help" (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary 1996: 1 304). The term help never means spoon feeding. It has been etymologically derived from Teutonic 'helping' which means aid or assistance given to another through some kind of reinforcement or supplementation of the other's actions or resources to make him/her more effective in terms of performance of socially expected roles as a responsible member of society (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary 1996:659). Thus social service in its broadest sense means any aid or assistance provided by society to enable its members to optimally actualize their potentials to effectively perform the roles expected prescribed by society and to remove obstacles that come in the way of personality development or social functioning.

According to H.M. Cassidy (1943:13) the term "social services" means those organized activities that are primarily and directly conceded with the conservation, the protection and the improvement of human resources", and "includes as social services: social assistance, social insurance, child welfare, corrections, mental hygiene, public health, education, recreation, labour protection, and housing" (Friedlander, 1963 :4).

Social services thus are those services which are envisaged and provided by society to its members to enable them to develop optimally and help them to function effectively and to lead life of decency, dignity, and liberty. These services directly benefit all the members of society, irrespective of their religion, caste, race, language, region, culture etc. The two other terms used in literature are: public services and social welfare services.

1.7.2. Social Welfare

Ail civilized societies throughout the globe have been praying for the well being of the entire mankind. In India our sages longed for 'May all be happy' and worked for devising such institutions as could promote the welfare of all and strengthening them from time to time. Derived from 'welfare', the term 'welfare' means "the state or condition with regard to good, fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc". (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, 1996: 1 6 19). While expressing his views on the concept of welfare, Sugata Dasgupta (1976:27) has observed: "By welfare we refer to the entire package of services, social and economic, that deal with income support, welfare provisions and social security, on the one hand, and view the whole range of social services, on the other."

According to Friedlander (1963 :4), " 'Social Welfare' is the organized system of social services and institutions, designed to aid individuals and groups to attain satisfying standards of life and health, and personal and social relationships which permit them to develop their full capacities and to promote their well-being in harmony with the needs of their families and the community."

Durgabai Deshmukh, the first chairperson of Central Social Welfare Board in the country (1960:VII) unequivocally said: "The concept of social welfare is distinct from that of general social services like education, health, etc. Social welfare is specialized work for the benefit of the weaker and more vulnerable sections of the population and would include skcial services for the benefit of women, children, the physically handicapped, and the mentally retarded and socially handicapped in various ways."

Therefore, to define social welfare as specifically designed system of services and institutions aimed at protecting and promoting the interests of weaker and vulnerable sections of society who left to themselves will not be in a position to maximally develop and effectively compete to enter the mainstream and to live with liberty, decency and dignity.

1.7.3 Social Reform

In every society cultural degeneration sets in of some point of time, particularly when its followers forget the basic purpose behind varied kinds of customs and traditions. They continue to religiously observe various rites and rituals associated with them, mainly because their forefathers have been performing them. Consequently, they develop varied kinds of social evils which hamper the personality development and obstruct effective social functioning. For example, in India the open 'Varna' system degenerated into closed caste system which further deteriorated into untouchability, unseeability and even unapproachability.

When social evils start manifesting themselves on a very large scale and become fairly widespread, some enlightened e p l e start giving a serious thought to them and devising measures to get rid of them; and it is at this juncture that social reform begins. The term 'reform', according to Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary (1996:206) means "the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc". Social reform thus, broadly speaking, refers to eradication of immoral, unhealthy, corrupt and wrong practices which thwart human and social development, According to M.S. Gore (1987:83), “Social reform involves a deliberate effort to bring about a change in social attitudes, culturally defined role expectations and actual patterns of behaviour of people in a desired direction through processes of persuasion and public education."

1.7.4 Social Defense

In the present age of corrections in which reformative theory of punishment is being strongly advocated mainly on the ground that 'criminals are not born but are made' by adverse and oppressive social conditions that prevail in a social system. A concern for the protection of society as also for promoting the interests of offender as a human person belonging to a civilized society is being widely shown too.

The term 'social defense' has both narrow and broad connotations. In its narrow sense, it remains confined to the treatment and welfare of persons coming in conflict with law.

Social defense consists of measures relating to prevention and control of juvenile delinquency and crime, welfare services in prisons, after - care services for discharged prisoners, probation services, suppression of immoral traffic, prevention of beggary and rehabilitation of beggars, prevention and control of drug abuse and alcoholism and treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics. Correctional services which are part of social defense programmes are an important field of social work practice. Social workers are working as care workers, probation officers, managers of juvenile cadres.

1.7.5. Social Security

Security i.e., freedom from danger or risk is one of the accepted needs of people. Security has been guaranteed to people through varied kinds of institutions which have been fast changing. Initially, this security was being provided through the institution of family and occupational guilds, and more so by the joint family system and caste in India; but in course of time these basic social institutions started disintegrating. It was by enlightened people that some deliberate efforts were required to be made at the level of society to ensure security to its people. It for the first time in 1935 in England that a pioneer Sir William Beveridge, came forward with the idea of 'social security' as means of freedom against five great giants: want, disease, ignorance, idleness and squalor.

The International Labour Organization (1942:80) defines social security "as the security that society furnishes through appropriate organization, against certain risks to which its members are exposed."

According to Friedlander (1 9635): By "social security we understand a programme of protection provided by society against those contingencies of modem life-sickness, unemployment, old age, dependence, industrial accidents and invalidism – against which the individual cannot be expected to protect himself and his family by his own ability or foresight".

The National Commission on Labour in India (1969: 162) expresses the view: "Social security envisages that the members of a community shall be protected by collective action against social risks, causing undue hardship and privation to individuals whose private resources can seldom be adequate to meet them."


1.Social Work in the modern context is a professional service based on scientific knowledge and skills. True/False 2._______ _________ is a welfare activity based on humanitarian philosophy, scientific knowledge and technical skills or helping individuals or group or community to live a rich and full life. 3.________ ___________ is kind of help which is provided in accordance to economic and social needs of the applicant. 4.In the __________ __________ _________, welfare services are provided to patients in hospitals and medical institutions. 5._________ ___________ is provided to the people at the time of natural calamities such as floods and famine. 6._________ _________ is protection provided by society against certain contingencies of life which include sickness, unemployment, old-age dependency and accident, etc.


The prime function of social work is to give assistance to individuals in regard to difficulties. The integrated aspects of social work deal with the welfare of the people, the main aims of this are to help people in one or other ways. Scope of Social work profession is gradually expanding. In this unit, we have discussed about the Concept of Social Work, Definitions, Nature, Scope, Objectives and Characteristics of Social Work and finally certain Concepts were clarified.


1.True 2.Social Work 3.Public assistance 4.medical social work 5.Social assistance 6.Social security


Family welfare services Medical social work Private social work Public assistance Public social work Social assistance Social Defense Social security Social Work

MODEL QUESTIONS 1.Explain the meaning of Social work 2.Define social work 3.Describe the nature of social work 4.Analyze the scope of social work 5.Illustrate the objectives of social work 6.Contrast the concept of social work in relation to the other concepts 7.Explain the characteristics of social work