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Introduction to Social Welfare

Course Code: SOWK 2200
Faculty: Child, Family & Community Studies
Department: Social Work
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Online, Partially Online
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

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. 

Methods of Instruction

Student presentations
Small group discussion
Guest speakers.

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)

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;
  3. 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;
  4. 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;
  5. Demonstrate understanding of theories and principles of advocacy within social work,
    • Describe methods of brokering between professional and natural networks of support.

course prerequisites




curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.