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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The formulation of health and welfare related social policies for the physically disabled in Alberta and British Columbia Lee, Susan King


The purpose of this study was to analyse and compare the development of policies for the physically disabled within the central health and welfare administrations of the Alberta and British Columbia governments from 1945 to 1980. The interaction of policy development with the organizational structuring within which the policies were administered, was analyzed to determine how the policies and their organizational frameworks changed over time. This study originated from observations made within Alberta's Department of Social Services and Community Health in 1980, concerning the ambiguous nature both of the content of certain policies concerning the physically disabled, and of the organization of the responsible department areas. Within the department, my difficulties in perceiving the client boundaries and program boundaries of particular jurisdictions that purported to administer programs for the physically disabled, were compounded by observing that services of particular programs were duplicated by other jurisdictions. These ambiguities led me to question whether there were underlying principles accounting for the manner in which both had developed. It was decided to compare the development of all policies affecting the physically disabled within the Alberta departments concerned both with public health and with public welfare from 1945 to 1980. In order to enlarge the amount of data bearing on the problem, the analogous departments, in British Columbia, were chosen for comparison. Data were taken, from secondary sources, the annual reports of each province's health and welfare related departments. These were analyzed according to the methodology of grounded theory, using the techniques of theoretical sampling, and of the constant comparative method of analysis and coding to classify documentary data originally not created for research purposes. In order to develop a broad range of acceptable indicators that permitted the coding of data into conceptual categories of explanation, a series of guiding questions, developed to suit the purposes of the research, was constructed. Conceptual categories with various properties emerged from the data, and were sufficiently generalized to designate characteristics of the policy development process that occurred in- both Alberta and British Columbia. Four conceptual categories, accounted for similarities between the two provinces while properties within the categories identified differences. These categories were named boundary decisions, labelling contexts, valuation contexts, and contextual constraints. The category of boundary decisions elicited and clarified both the type of policies that were taken within the departments according to the conditions that they met, and made explicit the type of policies left outside of their functioning. The categories of labelling contexts and valuation contexts provided an analytical explanation that accounted for the prescribed boundaries while simultaneously legitimizing the types of policies undertaken. The category of contextual constraints identified the presence of socioeconomic and institutionalized constraints that impacted on the development of policies and on their organizational arrangements within particular jurisdictions. A literature review verified the existence of these conceptual categories as variables intimately involved with policy development issues in general. The categories and their implications for the development of policies according to the needs of the disabled were related to the wider context of welfare state ideology. Boundary, valuation, and labelling were linked by properties that had a common underpinning of a utilitarian principle. The predominance of this principle underlying the policy making for the disabled was contrasted with other perceptions of the functions of social policy. The proposition was formulated that the economic values of the capitalist system and its institutions dictate social policy making for the physically disabled. The implication of this for the disabled was that policy making and planning for them at a governmental level will continue to lack comprehensiveness and attention paid to certain demonstrated needs as long as these values are predominant. Planning recommendations address the problem of how change could be brought about through the advocacy of groups of the disabled.

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