The restructuring of the Department of Social Welfare and implications for social work practice, 1986-1988 : a dissertation presented in partial fulfillment for the requirements of a Doctorate in Philosophy at Massey University

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Massey University
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This exploratory study analysed changes in the practice of social work in the Department of Social Welfare which occurred as a consequence of the Department's restructuring in 1986. This restructuring introduced major changes in management, service delivery, and the provision of culturally appropriate social services. It was proposed that changes in the practice of social work were related to wider economic, political and social debates regarding the viability and effectiveness of New Zealand's social services. These debates were interpreted as indicating a significant shift from policies derived from a welfare state model of provision to a welfare society model of social service delivery. A multi-leveled analytical framework was used to examine issues of policy, organization and professional practice. Three qualitative techniques were used to generate the data reported in the dissertation: documents published during the period 1969 - 1988; a structured interview schedule completed with both managers and social workers; and, finally, participant observation in two District Offices of the Department. Findings from this exploratory study provided general support for the shift in policy from a state funded, centrally directed model of service provision, to a pluralistic model that altered the role of the state and was intended to increase the involvement of community - based voluntary services. Within this shift, it was shown that during the 1986 - 1988 period, the Department's role became increasingly concerned with funding, monitoring and evaluating services. Biculturalism and the needs of Maori were shown to be critical factors in these shifts. The practice of social work within the Department of Social Welfare also became more limited and more specialised and its professional identity was altered by the changed organizational emphasis and the requirements of the Department. Several avenues for further research were delineated. Prospects for the future practice of social work sketched in the context of ongoing change within the Department were identified.
New Zealand Department of Social Welfare, Social work, Social workers, New Zealand