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Social welfare

Social welfare can be taken to mean

  • the welfare or well-being of a society.
  • in economics, the utility of people considered in aggregate. For social welfare in the economic sense, see welfare economics and social welfare function.
  • the provision of a wide range of social services, for the benefit of individual citizens. This usage is closely related to the idea of the welfare state.

Social welfare should be distinguished from welfare. In the United States welfare is sometimes a synonym for the provision of financial aid in the form of social security and social welfare may be associated with social work services.

Social welfare provision

Access to welfare services is usually granted on the basis of provable need, rather than simple lack of ability to pay for them. These services are often provided free of charge or at a nominal fee, with the state, ultimately the taxpayer, picking up the majority of the cost. Typical social welfare services include:

  • Government controlled or regulated, often compulsory, Superannuation savings programs.
  • Government controlled or regulated, often compulsory, social insurance programs, often based on income, to pay for the social welfare service being provided. These are often incorporated into the taxation system and may be inseparable from income tax.
  • Pensions or other financial aid, including social security and tax relief, to those with low incomes or inability to meet basic living costs, especially those who are raising children, elderly, unemployed, injured, sick or disabled.
  • Free or low cost nursing, medical and hospital care for those who are sick, injured or unable to care for themselves. This may also include free antenatal and postnatal care. Services may be provided in the community or a medical facility.
  • Free or low cost education for all children, and financial aid, sometimes as a scholarship or pension, sometimes in the form of a suspensory loan, to students attending academic institutions or undertaking vocational training.
  • The state may also fund or operate social work and community based organisations that provide services that benefit disadvantaged people in the community.
  • Welfare money paid to persons, from a government, who are in need of financial assistance but who are unable to work.

Child protection services are often considered part of the social welfare system, while the Police, legal assistance for those before the Courts, and other parts of the justice system are not. There are close links between social welfare and justice systems, often because they encounter the same people. The distinction is a matter of personal responsibility. Those involved in the social welfare system are generally unable to control or influence their own circumstances, while those in the justice system are generally responsible for the situation they find themselves in. Assistance given to those in the justice system is more about allowing an individual to receive fair treatment rather than social welfare. While being involved in the justice system often excludes an individual from social welfare assistance, those exiting the justice system, such as released prisoners, and families of those involved in the justice system are often eligible for social welfare assistance because of increased needs and increased risk of recidivism if the assistance is not provided. In some countries, improvements in social welfare services have been justified by savings being made in the justice system, as well as personal healthcare and legal costs.

States or nations that provide comprehensive social welfare programs are often identified as having a welfare state. In such countries, access to social welfare services is often considered a basic and inalienable right to those in need. In many cases these are considered natural rights, and indeed that position is borne out by the UN Convention on Social and Economic Rights and other treaty documents. Accordingly, many people refer to welfare within a context of social justice, making an analogy to rights of fair treatment or restraint in criminal justice.

See also

Last updated: 02-07-2005 01:31:58
Last updated: 02-21-2005 12:20:05