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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Utilization of manpower in a public welfare setting Budnick, Angela Frieda Mary

Abstract

This study is concerned with the social work man-power problem as it exists in the social assistance sector of the public welfare field. The purpose of the study was to determine if a rational plan for the deployment of social work personnel could be devised that would result in more effective and appropriate utilization of social work staff with varying levels of training and competence. The project is an exploratory study based on Richan's suggestion that a plan for worker deployment can be more effectively developed by first determining the degree of organizational or professional controls present or required in the performance of the various tasks in a public welfare agency. A list of tasks performed in the issuance of social allowance from initial contact through to termination was drawn up by the researchers on the basis of their knowledge and combined twenty-two years experience in this area. This list of one hundred twenty-eight tasks was presented in the form of a questionnaire to seven experienced social workers carrying urban and rural caseloads in three public welfare offices. The workers were asked to determine over a two week period, by noting their daily activities, if the list was accurate, complete and unambiguous. This validated list of tasks was presented to a panel of fourteen judges holding Master of Social Work degrees and at least two years' experience in the public welfare field for rating. The rating procedures were based on a five point scale of autonomy of worker functioning required in the performance of the different tasks. Beck's definition of worker autonomy was accepted as appropriate for the purposes of this study, as it incorporates the explicitness of guides to the workers, the visibility of worker activity and the degree of required organizational support for social work standards. This method of data collection, the use of the questionnaire and the rating scale, was considered the most feasible as they were easy to administer, flexible, allowed for fine definition with a specific frame of reference, inexpensive financially and in terms of worker-judge-researcher time. An analysis of our study findings revealed that only 9 per cent of the listed tasks received 80 per cent of judge rating agreement that was necessary to establish its reliability of the ratings. It was significant, however, that the judges' ratings usually followed a pattern tending to cluster at two adjacent ratings. While it is obvious that the instrument is not yet reliable, the fact that 42 per cent of the tasks received over 60 per cent agreement is encouraging and leads the researchers to conclude that the study is going in the right direction. It was also tentatively concluded that the closeness of the ratings seemed to indicate either that the rating scale of autonomy was not fine enough to allow distinctions between adjacent ratings or that the tasks were not defined with sufficient clarity for the judges to make distinctions regarding the amount of autonomy required in the performance of the task. The judges were queried on the problems they encountered in their ratings and their remarks led the researchers to re-examine the definitions of the tasks, and although they had been validated by the field workers in the initial phase of the study, it became evident that definitions of a great number of tasks could be unclear or confusing when they were rated by the employment of the autonomy criterion. This re-examination led the researchers to revise all tasks receiving less than 80 per cent agreement. It is concluded that there is no indication that the criterion of autonomy should be rejected. Rather, if the revised list of tasks can be given to judges to rate again, it is felt that a much higher degree of reliability can be established. Should the new ratings prove to be reliable, the way will then be clear to develop a task assignment scheme to be employed in a field study.

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