Social welfare is a common field of activity in a community aimed at strengthening resources and maximizing human potential. Over time, an economy’s conscious political, social, economic and cultural change becomes synonymous with stress, and social welfare serves as an effective strategy for successfully handling these factors.
The significance of social welfare to every community cannot be denied, yet very little is known about its foundational premise in developing human values and promoting socio-economic progress. Here is a look at the importance of social welfare for community development.
What is social welfare?
Social welfare is a system that assists individuals, families and vulnerable groups in need. The specific type and amount of welfare provided depend on the region; for example, the US government employs the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in offering grants.
Aside from the federal government, some private organizations, most of which are non-profit and operated by volunteers, also engage in social welfare. Social welfare systems work in various ways depending on the location and operator. However, they all follow the same basic structure.
How does the social welfare system work
Social welfare systems offer assistance to individuals and families in need through various programs targeting the basic needs of a community, such as housing, healthcare and feeding. Depending on the program, individuals must meet specific requirements to qualify for a social welfare program.
Using the United States as a case study, social workers are assigned to individuals seeking to benefit from the welfare program. These workers examine their applications and confirm the applicant’s needs. Eligibility depends on several factors, with financial status and disability being prevalent.
Welfare programs are guided by policies that frequently target specific sectors of society most in need. Some of the populations that social welfare programs target include:
- The elderly and retired population
- Sick or permanently injured individuals
- Unemployed people
- Those living below the recognized poverty line
- New parents
Types of social welfare services
There are several benefits of social welfare services. However, its value becomes much more apparent when we examine different aspects of these services. Social welfare services feature two distinct policy types that offer varying benefits, determining the funding method and the type of assistance allocated.
Distributive welfare programs
These are regarded as entitlement programs and look to benefit every community member equally through taxes. A few examples of this type of program include:
- Medicare: This is reserved for individuals aged over 65 and for people with certain illnesses or disabilities.
- Social security: Social security represents financial benefits for retired individuals or other people with disabilities.
- Unemployment insurance: Individuals who are part of the unemployed group in a community are eligible for this financial benefit.
- Workers’ compensation: These financial benefits are reserved for individuals who become injured or disabled while on the job.
Redistributive welfare programs
These are the primary form of welfare programs targeted to individuals who are considered low-income earners. They seek to assist these groups with basic aid that may seem too expensive for their income level. Some programs in this category include:
- Housing assistance: This program offers support for tenants and homeowners, especially the elderly and disabled groups that satisfy a particular income requirement.
- Medicaid: Community residents in need are offered low-cost or free healthcare coverage, such as low-income households and pregnant women.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): The TANF program offers financial support and other services to unemployed and underemployed people.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): SNAP offers food and nutrition assistance for low-income families.
Benefits of social welfare
There are numerous benefits of social welfare, and the situation of every community is unique. However, the benefits of social welfare generally fall into four categories: food, healthcare, housing, and childcare. The welfare system not only benefits individuals and families in a community but also massively contributes to the well-being of various social environments, such as educational and work institutions.
Social welfare programs provide housing, medical, food, educational and occupational assistance to individuals who are unable to access these services conveniently. The commitment to developing a healthy, safe and productive community offers meaning and purpose to social services and the professionals that render them.
The unique nature of social welfare can also be seen in various aspects of the program, highlighting some of its tailored benefits. From housing to healthcare, infrastructure, and public education, a community gains a lot from such programs.
Housing assistance is a type of redistributive welfare program, and there are many housing assistance options. For example, the Housing Choice Voucher Program evaluates families and assists those who qualify with their rent payments.
Families can select from various houses that conform to the program’s requirements. They then pay a specific amount considered appropriate for their income, and the housing program will cover the rest. With programs like this, members of a community can afford quality housing regardless of their level of income. Landlords also benefit because they receive the total market rate of the rent.
Healthcare welfare comes in various forms, from Medicaid to Medicare and even nutrition assistance. Medicaid is a state-funded healthcare program for low-income families; however, not every healthcare institution is mandated to accept this form of insurance. Medicare, on the other hand, is federally funded and offers healthcare insurance to the aging population. Exceptions to this requirement are made for disabled individuals.
In the case of nutrition assistance, programs such as SNAP provide low-income families with food stamps that can be used to buy food. For a family to qualify, they must have a monthly gross income that is a certain level below the federal poverty line. These healthcare programs offer families the opportunity to eat and live a healthy lifestyle regardless of their income.
Institutions, including public schools, community colleges, and federal and state universities, are examples of government-funded infrastructures, and they all contribute to the benefit of society. In most communities, residents are exposed to low-cost or free education from kindergarten to tertiary-level education.
In most locations, students of community colleges and state universities are required to pay tuition, albeit at a significantly reduced rate compared to private institutions. Today, with so many good reasons to pursue a higher degree, government funding also covers higher-level education programs in these federally-funded institutions.
Social security refers to a federal pension program that workers pay into throughout their working years. These payments are made in the form of taxes and are withdrawn by the government directly before salaries are deposited into their bank accounts. Individuals can then access these funds as pensions following retirement.
Social security benefits retirees considerably as it serves as a source of income following retirement. Workers plagued by injuries or disabilities due to their jobs can also have a stream of income.
Infrastructure policies offer a platform to assist a healthy lifestyle, security, public transportation, healthcare amenities and educational institutions in a community or society. These public goods serve as commodities provided for the benefit of society at no cost. Both federal and private organizations offer infrastructures, and making these amenities available to all citizens fosters equity and equality in a community.
Pathway to becoming a social welfare professional
Promoting healthy growth and change among vulnerable populations through social welfare is a dynamic activity, and there are specific pathways that guide and prepare an individual for a career in social welfare. Here are common steps required to become a social worker.
A bachelor’s degree is the first step for any profession. Individuals who have identified social work as a future profession pursue a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) in their undergraduate studies. The coursework for this program typically incorporates human behavior, social welfare policy, social environment and social work practice.
In addition to traditional college programs, it is possible to obtain an online BSW that serves the same purpose more conveniently and cost-effectively. These online programs from accredited institutions such as Spring Arbor University also expose students to real-world experiences and learning opportunities that reflect current social work practice realities.
This bachelor’s degree will help you develop your professional practice as a social worker while focusing on the values of service, social and economic justice, dignity and the value of each person.
Similar to BSW programs, some institutions also offer advanced degrees and accredited programs required for social worker licensure. These degrees can be obtained through various avenues, including traditional standing programs, advanced standing programs, online MSW programs, and on-campus MSW programs.
Fieldwork hour requirements
The critical nature of social welfare work makes it essential for aspiring professionals to dedicate a specific period to completing fieldwork or an internship. Through this platform, students interact and learn from other active social workers in the field. This helps many professionals identify the aspects of social work that interest them most.
Apply for licensure
A social work license is one effective way to advance learning, strengthen expertise and demonstrate credibility in the field. Not all social welfare career paths require a permit; however, if you work directly with people, it’s best to obtain a license. Some prevalent social work licenses include clinical and master social work licensure.
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