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Community work in public welfare -- a descriptive study of the community work done by the district office staff of the Department of Social Welfare of the province of British Columbia Armitage, Andrew

Abstract

Recent research in social work and the social sciences has emphasized the importance of environmental influences upon social problems, particularly those social problems that welfare programmes are designed to combat. Consequently, social welfare organizations have taken a renewed interest in activities which promote interaction and involvement of the community when providing direct services. In this study, these activities have been collectively referred to as community work. This study examined the community work done by the Department of Social Welfare of the Province, of British Columbia to determine the extent and nature of the community work activities undertaken and the variables associated with participation in community work. Using a conceptual base derived from the literature, five principal research questions were clarified and delineated: 1) What community work activities were underway? 2) How much time was involved? 3) Which staff members (social workers or supervisors) carried major responsibilities in these activities? 4) What variables influenced participation in these activities? 5) What training was relevant for participation in these activities? The research design adopted was the "descriptive study." The principal research questions were utilized in designing a mail questionnaire. This was pre-tested and then sent to all the supervisors and a stratified sample of social workers in the District Offices of the Department. Computer tabulation of the data provided frequency tables for an extensive series of cross tabulations. Rigorous tests for validity, reliability, association, and statistical significance of the data were applied. Also included in this study were brief reviews of the history and literature of community work. The major findings of the study were as follows: 1) With minor limitations, the research design was effective for the purpose of the study. 2) Virtually every staff member participated in some community work activity with considerable variations amongst the different types of activity. 3) Supervisors spent more time on a broader range of community work activities than social workers and each participated in distinctly different activities. 4) Several variables were associated with participation in community work, particularly the length of time the staff members were in the District Office and the size of the supervisors' caseloads. 5) Staff members' perceptions of the adequacy of their training varied considerably depending upon the activity examined. The study fulfilled its dual purpose of providing a detailed description of the community work done by the District Office Staff and of delineating some of the variables that were associated with participation in community work. These findings should provide considerable clarification of the operational and administrative considerations relevant to the expansion of community work. Questions were raised about what constitutes suitable training for participation in certain types of community work activity.

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