Curriculum Guideline

Introduction to Social Welfare

Effective Date:
Course Code
SOWK 2200
Introduction to Social Welfare
Social Work
Applied Community Studies
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
60 hours
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

Student presentations
Small group discussion
Guest speakers.


Course Description
This course introduces students to the development of social welfare policy in Canada. Social and human rights reactions to social problems in general will be examined, as well as poverty and economic disadvantage in particular. The role of the social worker to influence policy development and help change the social structures that exist currently will be explored. Methods of forming social policy at the legislative and grassroots level will be considered. The intersection of personal, professional, and societal values will be examined related to larger issues of power, oppression, and the inclusion or exclusion of different members of society. During the course, students will be provided with opportunities to work on various policy issues to examine their impact on service delivery and the wellbeing of clients. The relationship between the profession of social work, political perspectives on society, and public opinion will be discussed as well.
Course Content

Course content will be guided by research, empirical knowledge and best practice. The following values and principles, consistent with professional standards, inform course content.

  • Social policy decisions are related to the protection and affirmation of human rights.  Public sentiment influences in part those who are safeguarded by legislation and the consequences for those who remain oppressed.
  • Individual problems are related to larger socio-economic political issues.  This includes the need for both personal and social change:  the need to explore and reflect on individual lives (personality, gifts, needs, and motivation) and the structural context of society (class, gender, race, age, government institutions).
  • Poverty is an issue of equity.  Although all people face some risk of being poor, people who are marginalized face significantly higher risk.
  • Understanding societal attitudes, the political process, relevant legislation, and the social welfare delivery system and policy are prerequisites for providing direct service and for advocating on behalf of recipients of service. 
  • Models of change need to be appropriate for diverse populations depending on factors such as history, culture, and the ability to be empowered within the legal, political, and social structures of society.
  • The delivery of social welfare is not an inert enterprise, and at both the practical and theoretical level the social worker adopts an active role to advocate on behalf of clients within formal and informal mechanisms of providing help.
  • Both beginning and experienced practitioners need to be aware of their own values, political agendas, and the potential biases within their role as professionals.
  • The impacts of globalization and privatization continue to erode the universal delivery of social welfare across Canada and the notion of equal access for all is under threat.
  • Social policy may be formed at different levels in society and the social service practitioner can be an active agent of change within this process. 
Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Describe the relationship between economics, politics, and the formation of Canadian social policy over time;
  2. Describe the social, psychological, and economic impact of poverty;
  • Critically analyze the relationship between marginalized/oppressed groups and policy structures which can limit access to services
  • Describe the process of income assistance delivery in British Columbia, including basic legislation and client eligibility,
  • Define “relative” and “absolute” concepts of poverty;
  • Describe radical social work principles
    • Describe what is meant by structural, feminist, and Aboriginal social work models,
    • Demonstrate knowledge of anti-oppressive social work concepts and principles,
    • Critically analyze the role of the social worker in the formation of social policy;
  • Define the links between social policy, public opinion, and the delivery of social welfare rights and legislation,
    • Describe models of change as they relate to current social trends and political agendas;
  • Demonstrate understanding of theories and principles of advocacy within social work,
    • Describe methods of brokering between professional and natural networks of support.


    Means of Assessment

    This course will conform to Douglas College policy regarding the number and weighting of evaluations. Typical means of assessment may include some or all of the following:
    Written papers
    Presentations (individual or group)


    Textbook Materials

    Text(s) such as the following, the list to be updated periodically:

    Hick, S, (2009). Social welfare in Canada (3rd ed.). Toronto: Thompson.
    Armitage, A. (2011). Social welfare in Canada. Toronto: Oxford University Press.






    Which Prerequisite