Differences between Social Work and Social Welfare

Social Work and/versus Social Welfare

Social work and social welfare are two different concepts, but the terms are sometimes used interchangeably and synonymously due to some confusion underlying their objectives and practices. When Devine wrote about social work in 1922, he did not distinguish between social welfare and social work. He wrote, "Social work is the sum of all efforts by society to take up its own slack". Despite some similarities, there are some visible lines of distinctions between the two, which can be stated in the following points:


  1. Social Work is a professional practice, and the social workers are highly trained professional practitioners. Social welfare is a programme that is not a professional practice, and employees involved in the welfare activities are not necessarily trained in welfare provision.
  2. Social work is becoming more formalised and has emerged as a new profession. Where social welfare continues to be an informal activity.
  3. Social work activity is rendered to the individual, groups, and communities in need by using different problem-solving methods. There are four basic steps in solving a problem: a) Defining the problem. b) Generating alternatives. c) Evaluating and selecting alternatives. d) Implementing solutions. Whereas, social welfare services are given to the needy individuals, groups and communities but it doesn't have any specific method to deal with the problems of the people.
  4. Social work is the art and science of working for and with people. Whereas social welfare aims at working only for the people and not necessarily with the people.
  5. Social work is a professional service based on scientific knowledge and skills in human relationships, which helps individuals to obtain social or personal satisfaction. Whereas social welfare is a system of laws, programmes, benefits, and services that strengthen or assure provisions for the individuals' well-being. 
  6. Social workers respecting an individual's autonomy and worth do not impose anything upon him, however beneficial it may be. Whereas a social welfare worker who is convinced of the usefulness of his programme for his clientele feels that it should be made available to them for their benefit. 
  7. Social work can be undertaken by any individual who is professionally qualified and equipped with social work knowledge. Whereas social welfare is mainly undertaken by the government through its workers/employees. 
  8. Social work emphasises all the aspects of human development. Whereas social welfare emphasises the material needs of the individuals' group and communities. 

Social welfare and social work are both terms that refer to the development and provision of public or private social services to promote social justice amongst individuals and groups of individuals. While social welfare refers more generally to the well-being of groups and individuals and the social service delivery system, the term social work refers more specifically to the professional practice of delivering these social services. The scientific study of social welfare involves the application of physical science, social science, and technology to the goals of informing social work practice and improving human well-being.

Social Work

Social  Welfare

W.A. Friedlander said, "Social work is a professional service based upon scientific knowledge and skill in human relations, which assists individuals alone or in groups to obtain social and personal satisfaction and independence.

According to Friedlander: "Social welfare is the organised systems of social services and institutions designed to aid individuals and groups to attain satisfying standards of life and health and personal and social relationships which permit them to develop their full capacities and to promote their well being in harmony with the needs of their families and the community.

Social work is a profession.

Social welfare is a condition

social work is the work someone does to aid society (either in whole or just a segment or individual) 

 social welfare refers to the programs in place to assist people in society

A social worker may be a counsellor or a person who helps the homeless, for example,

but social welfare is the unemployment money or food stamps a person gets from the government.

Social work is about helping individuals to overcome difficulties they may face. Or example - an older person who has recently been in the hospital may need help when they return home to assist them in their daily living long or short term.

Social welfare is what the state is doing to improve social living, i.e. National health service, unemployment benefits, housing etc.

social work is professional and has a code of ethics 

WHILE social welfare is not professional

Both work and receive benefits. Ne is the helper, the other the helped. 

Social work is a process, and social welfare is the goal.


  1. Great post, thank you for sharing this helpful information about social workers and welfare. Helpful for me. Keep posting. We also provide social service Visit us: Dr. Suresh Borole

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