Social Policy for Social Work Practice

Subject SCWK50005 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 5 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24 contact hours (8 x 1 hour lectures, 8 x 2 hour seminars)
Total Time Commitment:

96 hours total time commitment





Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's courses. Students who think their disability will impact on meeting this requirement are encouraged to discuss this matter with the Course Coordinator and the Disability Liaison Unit.


Social Work
Melbourne School of Health Sciences
The University of Melbourne
Alan Gilbert Building, Level 7, 161 Barry St
Carlton Victoria 3010 AUSTRALIA
T: +61 3 8344 4171
F: +61 3 8344 4188

Subject Overview:

This subject will give students a foundational understanding of the policy context in which they live and practice and develop their capacity to critically read, analyse and evaluate the impact of policy in everyday lives. It will introduce the domain of public policy making and sensitise students to the inherently contested nature of political decision-making regarding the allocation and distribution of resources. It will give an overview of the current workfare paradigm and regime and place this in international and historical perspective. It will introduce key concepts and intellectual debates in contemporary social policy and provide a framework for policy analysis that can be used in grounded policy assessment. Social work has a unique role in social policy development. Whether working with individuals, groups and communities, social workers need to be aware of the influence of the broader policy environment and committed to advocating change in that environment where there are adverse social impacts.

Learning Outcomes:

The aims of this subject are to introduce students to the principles and concepts by which they can decipher and read contemporary social policy so as to understand the way government decision making changes the distribution of supports and opportunities across different groups in society and how this ultimately affects human lives. The course aims to highlight the value basis of policy decisions and the inherently political nature of social policy analysis, practice and advice. In addition, the course aims to demonstrate the unique role of social work for social policy development both because of its professional commitment to the principles of social justice as well as its integrated practice methods. At the end of the course students will demonstrate:

  • A clear understanding of what social policy is and why it is contested
  • Knowledge of the values and principles of alternative paradigms of political economy that determine the allocation of supports and opportunities
  • An understanding of how this distributional allocation in turn affects human lives and the importance of a critical approach to social policy by social workers
  • Knowledge of the current workfare paradigm and welfare regime from a national and international perspective
  • Knowledge of the historical foundations of social policy development in Australia and the rationale for ‘the welfare state’
  • Understanding of key concepts and intellectual debates in welfare service provision
  1. Written essays of 2,000 words (40%) - Due mid semester
  2. 3,000 words (60%) - Due end of semester
Prescribed Texts:


Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of this subject students should be able to:

  • critically analyse texts and practices;
  • understand recent developments in social work contexts of practice;
  • link theory to practice;
  • competently communicate in ways relevant to both academic and practice contexts;
  • undertake independent research.
Links to further information:
Related Course(s): Master of Social Work
Master of Social Work (250)

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