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A social welfare provision refers to any program which seeks to provide a minimum level of income, service or other support for many marginalized groups such as the poor, elderly, and disabled people. Social welfare programs are undertaken by governments as well as non-governmental organizations (NGO's). Social welfare payments and services are typically provided at the expense of taxpayers generally, funded by benefactors, or by compulsory enrollment of the poor themselves. Welfare payments can take the form of in-kind transfers (e.g., health care services) or cash (e.g., earned income tax credit). Examples of social welfare services include the following:
- Compulsory superannuation savings programs.
- Compulsory social insurance programs, often based on income, to pay for the social welfare service being provided. These are often incorporated into the taxation system and may be inseparable from income tax.
- Pensions or other financial aid, including social security and tax relief, to those with low incomes or inability to meet basic living costs, especially those who are raising children, elderly, unemployed, injured, sick or disabled.
- Free or low cost nursing, doctor medical and hospital care for those who are sick, injured or unable to care for themselves. This may also include free antenatal and postnatal care. Services may be provided in the community or a medical facility.
- Free or low cost public education for all children, and financial aid, sometimes as a scholarship or pension, sometimes in the form of a suspensory loan, to students attending academic institutions or undertaking vocational training.
- The state may also fund or operate social work and community based organizations that provide services that benefit disadvantaged people in the community.
- Welfare money paid to persons, from a government, who are in need of financial assistance but who are unable to work for pay.
Police, criminal courts, prisons, and other parts of the justice system are not generally considered part of the social welfare system, while child protection services are. There are close links between social welfare and justice systems as instruments of social control (see carrot and stick). Those involved in the social welfare system are generally treated much like those in the justice system. Assistance given to those in the justice system is more about allowing an individual to receive fair treatment rather than social welfare. While being involved in the justice system often excludes an individual from social welfare assistance, those exiting the justice system, such as released prisoners, and families of those involved in the justice system are often eligible for social welfare assistance because of increased needs and increased risk of recidivism if the assistance is not provided. In some countries, improvements in social welfare services have been justified by savings being made in the justice system, as well as personal healthcare and legal costs.
States or nations that provide social welfare programs are often identified as having a welfare state. In such countries, access to social welfare services is often considered a basic and inalienable right to those in need. In many cases these are considered natural rights, and indeed that position is borne out by the UN Convention on Social and Economic Rights and other treaty documents. Accordingly, many people refer to welfare within a context of social justice, making an analogy to rights of fair treatment or restraint in criminal justice.
- Capability approach
- Community welfare services
- Emergency services
- Health care services
- Mental health services
- Protective services
- Public health services
- Social services
- R.M. Blank (2001). "Welfare Programs, Economics of," International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, pp. 16426-16432, Abstract.
- Sheldon Danziger, Robert Haveman, and Robert Plotnick (1981). "How Income Transfer Programs Affect Work, Savings, and the Income Distribution: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature 19(3), pp. 975-1028.
- R.H. Haveman (2001). "Poverty: Measurement and Analysis," International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, pp. 11917-11924. Abstract.