UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Optimum professional staffing of a municipal social welfare department at the caseworker level Sopp, Maimo


The persistence of high caseloads combined with difficulties in recruiting sufficient staff have focussed attention in recent years on the question of standards for the staffing of public welfare services. Increasing emphasis upon the rehabilitative function in public assistance has contributed a further element to this interest and a number of experimental projects, mostly in the U.S.A., have captured the attention of administrators by demonstrating the possibility for more effective service through the better deployment of existing staff resources. The situation in the Vancouver City Social Service Department is typical of other large urban centres: it is faced with a relatively fixed supply of social workers and ever-increasing caseloads among which are to be found some of the most complex of personal and family problems. In January, 1950, the city employed thirty-eight social workers to serve a total caseload of 13,858 compared with thirty-nine social workers in 1960 serving a caseload of 15,659. Within the last few years nine social service assistants have been hired to serve the growing number of unemployed single men who in January, 1960, added nearly 1,500 more persons to the City's public assistance caseload. The present study grew out of the recognition that not all clients can be effectively served under such conditions and that in view of the unlikelihood of any sizeable increase in social work staff, alternative methods must be considered for making better use of available personnel. Chapter I reviews significant phases in the history of public welfare in North America with particular reference to British Columbia and the development of the "service component" in public assistance programs. Chapter II describes the present workings of the Social Service Department in Vancouver. Chapter III analyzes the difficulties faced by the Vancouver Social Service Department in providing a desirable level of service to clients; at the levels of a) staff, b) supervision, c) clientele, d) budget, and e) general administration. Current literature on the new approach to personnel differentiation and case classification is reviewed in Chapter IV. The final chapter separates out three methods of improvement: 1) emphasis on skilled workers, with reduced caseloads; 2) differentiation between social workers and case aides (or welfare assistants); 3) a three-fold differentiation of both workers and cases. Proposals are made for a pilot project in the local Department.

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