SCWK 2013

Dr. Norma Jean Profitt
Department of Social Work
Telephone: (506) 452-0495 St. Thomas University


This course is a prerequisite for students applying for admission to the Bachelor of Social Work program at St. Thomas University. Introduction to Social Welfare will examine social welfare in Canadian society, trace its historical roots and philosophical underpinnings, and critically examine the present social welfare system in light of changing economic and social conditions and changing needs. Current social welfare issues and debates will be discussed and analyzed as well as the relationship between the profession of social work and social welfare in Canada.

Course design:

The professor will be responsible for introducing, through lectures and other means, foundational material, themes, and issues that will provide a framework for the course. In addition, emphasis will be placed on student learning through reading, synthesis, personal reflection, individual and group exercises and activities, research, and small and large group discussions.


Upon completion of this course, students will have:

1. An understanding of the nature and scope of social welfare in Canada, the major concepts in critical policy analysis of the social welfare system, and historical debates that inform present day issues.

2. Familiarity with social welfare from different perspectives - the individuals or groups that use social welfare programs, the administrative or organizational framework of social welfare, and the global perspective bringing international forces to bear on the Canadian social welfare system.

3. Awareness of current issues in social welfare and how they affect us as members of society, social work as a profession, and the clients we serve.

4. An understanding of the different ways of gathering and interpreting material related to social welfare and social policy.

5. Made some connections between the social welfare system, programs and services, and the situations of the clients served by the social work profession.

Required text:

Chappell, R. (1997). Social welfare in Canadian society. Scarborough: ITP Nelson.

Books on Reserve at the Harriet Irving Library:

Guest, D. (1997). The emergence of social security in Canada. (3rd ed.). Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

McGilly, F. (1990). An introduction to Canada's public social services. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Pollak, N., with Vedan, R., & Tester, F. (1998). Critical choices, turbulent times. A community workbook on social programs. (2nd ed.). University of British Columbia: School of Social Work.

Turner, J. C., & Turner, F. J. (1995). Canadian social welfare. (3rd ed.). Toronto: Allyn & Bacon.

Recommended readings follow the required readings. A selected bibliography is attached as a resource for you.


The grade for this course will be based on a mid-term test and three assignments.

1. Reflection on history and its relevance for today - Value 20%.

For this assignment, select a historical event, person, and/or development in social welfare in Canada. Through research on this development, respond to the following criteria:

1) What were the social and political conditions of the time and how did they affect this particular event, person, and/or development?

2) What significance did this have in the development of social welfare in Canada?

3) From your viewpoint, what makes you interested in this event, person, and/or development?

4) Reflect on how this event, person, and/or development is connected to our safety net today.

Each point is worth equal marks (25%). Maximum 4 double-spaced pages, plus references.

2. Mid-term test - This test will be worth 20% of the final grade.

3. Analysis of Journal Article on Social Welfare -Value 20%.

The purpose of this assignment is to become familiar with writings on social welfare and to critically analyze the argument in the article using material that we have discussed throughout the term.

Select a journal article of interest to you from a Canadian journal, for example, the Canadian Social Work Review, Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, Canadian Journal on Aging, Canadian Woman Studies, Canadian Journal of Women and the Law.

Address the following criteria:

1) Give a brief description of the article's content.

2) What argument is the author making?

3) Using some of the material we have discussed in class, critically analyze the author's argument. For example, from what ideological perspective is the author arguing? What evidence has s/he presented to support her/his argument? What do you see as the strengths and areas for improvement of the author's position?

4) Summarize the implications of the author's position for our social welfare system.

5) Conclude with your own thoughts and summary of your points.

Maximum 5 double-spaced pages, plus references.

4) Final Term Paper - Value 40% of final grade.

Students will do a final term paper on how social welfare policies and programs affect the well-being of a specific group of people, for example, single mothers, children living in poverty, older Canadians, the working poor, Aboriginal peoples, persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, persons with disabilities, people who have recently immigrated to Canada and refugees.

Address the following:

1) Provide a description of the specific group of people you have chosen to examine. Who makes up this group? Why is it important for us to examine this social policy area?

2) Who have been some of the players involved (for example, governments, advocacy groups, consumer/client constituencies) in social policy making affecting this group?

3) Discuss what have been some of the social policy issues and debates concerning this particular group and the social welfare programs and services designed for them.

4) Demonstrate some knowledge about how this specific group has historically been affected by particular social policies. What are some pieces of legislation/Acts that affect this group?

5) Demonstrate some understanding of the programs and services that have been designed for this specific population and by whom are they offered?

6) Identify some of the assumptions, implicit or explicit, in these social policies, programs and services.

7) Critique how these programs and services are or are not meeting people's needs, considering gender, disability, sexual orientation, 'race,' and class.

8) Suggest some recommendations and/or directions as to how social policy and social programs and services could be improved to deal with this specific group and related issues.

9) What have you learned from your research and your own thinking about social welfare and the specific group that you have examined?

The last three sections of the paper have been given more weight in order to emphasize the importance of your critical thinking and analysis about your topic, what you have learned about social welfare with respect to this specific population, and what constructive changes you think need to be made.


Part of becoming a social worker involves developing your ability to clearly and confidently express your ideas, views, arguments, and critical thoughts about issues. Since this is often a lifelong learning goal, we will work on these skills in this course through active student participation. Students are expected to relate to each other in mutually respectful ways, with appropriate use of non-oppressive language and tone.

As per the Course Regulations of St. Thomas University, regular attendance is expected of students at all classes. If students miss class, it is their responsibility to obtain the material from another student, or to arrange during my office hours to pick up or review material and not at the beginning of class. If you want to discuss your assignments or grades, please come during office hours or discuss it with me privately after class.

Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date specified in the course outline. Please note that late assignments will be deducted 10% per day. To achieve a passing grade in this course you must achieve a passing grade in all 4 assignments. If your assignments are late, please submit them directly to Jeananne Knox, Social Work Departmental Assistant, in Holy Cross House, 2nd floor, Office hours Monday-Friday 8:30-12:00 noon and 1-4 pm.

Students should familiarize themselves with the St. Thomas University Calendar and Regulations. If you want further explanation on these items, please ask. I have noted that students are unclear about what plagiarism means and how to reference properly. While we may be able to talk about some of this in class, please take your own steps to learn about what constitutes plagiarism and how to do proper referencing.

Evaluation criteria are clearly stated. Evaluation of written assignments is based on the St. Thomas University policy. Assignments are evaluated on both content and form, for example, organization of material, grammar, and non-oppressive language. I look for the clarity and quality of argument, scope and comprehensiveness of material covered, creative, thoughtful and inclusive critical analysis, integration of relevant readings/class learnings, and basic scholarship skills such as appropriate and proper referencing. The style of referencing should follow the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association.

American Psychological Association. (1990). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. (4th ed.). Washington, DC: APA.

Other Courses:

SCWK 3213 - Women and Social Work
SCWK 3243 - Community Organization
SCWK 3873 - Social work and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Two-Spirited Peoples

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