Journal of Social Development in Africa

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Promoting the developmental social welfare approach in Zimbabwe: Challenges and prospects

STW Mhiribidi


The study was prompted by the on - going discourse on the appropriateness of existing social welfare delivery mechanisms in the Third World which, over time, have tended to be informed by the modernization approach. The prevailing view, particularly among academics and practitioners in Africa, is essentially that the continent ought to promote the developmental rather than the remedial approach to social work, in order to more effectively address the challenges faced. Zimbabwe is one of the countries that seem to have heeded this call. The study therefore sought to establish the extent to which Zimbabwe is promoting the developmental approach to social welfare provision, with special focus on the public assistance scheme. Beneficiaries of public assistance through the Department of Social Services were targeted and key informants were interviewed. A key finding of the study was that the public assistance scheme in Zimbabwe has remained essentially remedial, with only limited attempts made towards initiatives that facilitate a developmental thrust (i.e. self reliance). It emerged from the study findings that at the policy level, the thrust of the Department of Social Services (DSS) is to implement both remedial and developmental approaches to social work, while on the ground only a few of the activities of the DSS could be regarded as developmental in nature. The reason given for this anomaly was mainly scarcity of resources. The study revealed that while developmental social work was preferred (especially by the professional social workers), remedial social work is likely to remain a predominant feature particularly because of lack of a conducive environment that would enable the majority of the Department of Social Services clients to move towards self-reliance.
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