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The Role of Social Work Practice in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention in Major Cities in Hong Kong - A Research Proposal Paper

The Role of Social Work Practice in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention in Major Cities in Hong Kong



This research proposal will investigate and evaluate the role of social work practice in preventing drug and alcohol abuse in major cities in Hong Kong. The paper will then consider issues concerning social problems in Hong Kong. Basically, the background, significance, context and theme of the study are presented; the preview of literature review was shown, the objectives of the study and the research questions and conceptual framework are formulated. Here, vital terms and variables, questions and assumptions are stated. The proposed methodology, sampling design, data collection methods, procedures, analysis and timeframe of the research are also presented.

1.0 Introduction

            The society is a complex entity composed of various interrelated elements such as the government, laws, culture, social norms, community, family, and individual persons. These elements naturally form a hierarchy wherein individual persons make up the family, groups of families comprise the community, and the community is governed by culture, laws and social norms. Each of these components has their functions that contribute to the entire reality of the society and impacts the other elements. Societal life is basically complicated. Issues such as poverty, security, crimes, human rights and inter-human conflicts continuously confront the society throughout human history. These issues are born out of the individual differences inherent in each person. An individual is born with unique circumstances such as home environment, family situation, physical and psychological make up, environmental influences and personal interests. These factors form an interplay that determines how the person would be able to shape his self-concept and express it to the larger external community. Thus, any change or concern at the level of the individual person can affect the relationships between the numerous societal elements and pose threats to societal balance. These individual issues constitute the broader context of social problems.

1.1        Background of the Study

In the simplest sense, a social problem is any kind of situation that is deemed undesirable by some people in the community (What is a social problem 2007).  They are conditions in the society that are detrimental to persons and the society in general. They may include racism, sexism, poverty and crimes among others that are proven to render material, physical or psychological distress to some members of the society or cause imbalance in some aspects of societal life. In short, social problems are conditions that hinder some or all members of the society from performing proper functioning and realizing their full capacity (Long 2006).

Considering that alcohol and drug abuse as social problem, social workers are doing their best to pacify it. Actually, social workers work with alcohol and drug abusers through three approaches – direct intervention, advocacy and coordination, and influence on social policy. Social workers work in social welfare agencies that provide tangible social services to people who are affected by various social problems like child abuse, racial discrimination, poverty, old age, substance abuse, mental illness and crime. Among these social conditions, drug and alcohol abuse is a significant concern of social work as this condition results to a chain of effects like child and intimate partner violence, poverty, incarceration due to violent offenses and even death.  Social workers handle the case management of clients until their dependence on drugs and alcohol are suppressed, other needs are met and they have regained their social capacity to handle problems on their own. This immense responsibility requires the worker to be adept at all facets of substance abuse and the different community resources that can be tapped to facilitate comprehensive intervention. Social workers act as therapists who facilitate motivational interviews with drug and alcohol abusing clients. They need to recognize that substance abuse is a curable condition wherein abusers need motivation, guidance and support.

1.2      Significance of the Study

This study plays a significant role in enhancing the services provided by the social workers. Moreover, the study will be significant in social service organisation and social problems prevention in a sense that it will broaden people knowledge about effect of alcohol and drug abuse. Furthermore, it will contribute to social work and social problem research. This can be used as a future reference for future researches that will focus on other factors of social problems or other issues concerning social work practices. In addition, this study might become of great use to different organisation especially the government because if ever identified in this study social work practices has significant impact in lessening the cases of alcohol and drug abuse, it will have a positive bounce on them.  

1.3      Objectives of the Study

The study intends to evaluate the role of social work practices in major cities in Hong Kong concerning alcohol and drug prevention. Specifically, the study would like to meet the following objectives:

1.                    To assess the current status of alcohol and drug abuse in major cities in Hong Kong.

2.                   To review the current work practices of social workers concerning alcohol and drug prevention in major cities in Hong Kong.

3.                   To investigate the significant effect of social work practices in pacifying social problems such as drug and alcohol abuse.

4.                   To determine the effectiveness of current work practices of social workers concerning alcohol and drug prevention in major cities in Hong Kong.

1.4      Research Hypothesis

This study would like to test whether “The current work practice of social workers has no significant effect on alcohol and drug prevention in major cities in Hong Kong.

1.5      Definitions of Terms and Variables

            Social worker – people concerned with social problems, their causes, their solutions and their human impacts. They work with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities (

Social work - profession committed to the pursuit of social justice, to the enhancement of the quality of life, and to the development of the full potential of each individual, group and community in the society (

Social problems- refers to are merely matters which directly or indirectly affect many or all members of a society and are considered to be problems, controversies related to moral values, or both (

Community service - a practice of altruism within one's community. People become involved in community service for many reasons: for some, serving community is an altruistic act, for others it is a punishment (

2.0 Review of Related Literature

            Drug and alcohol abuse are existing conditions in every society that are proven to render adverse effects to the personal health and lives of abusers and to the society in general. Hence, states and governments throughout the globe are concerned with the eradication of these social problems as well as the treatment of abusers. Management of drug and alcohol abuse is a core agenda of the welfare state in general, and social work profession in particular. Dominelli (1997) asserts that social work is a permanent aspect of the welfare state especially in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Sweden which determines its legitimacy to promote and facilitate social justice and people empowerment (p. 70).  Amodeo &Fassler (2000) further argue that substance abuse is a legitimate component of social work practice and social work practitioners have the necessary competence to respond to it through their therapeutic role with the clients. However, the complexities of drug and social abuse as well as the abusers’ stigmata for being aggressive, criminals or violent offenders sometimes scare social workers in their practice with drug and alcohol clients and result to negative responses. Some cases of negative responses are stereotyping clients, refusal to work with them, failure to identify and refer the clients, loss of focus on the matter of substance abuse due to client’s aggression or encouragement, pessimism regarding prognosis, and expression of feelings of inadequacy in helping alcohol and drug abusing clients with their needs. Hence, adequate awareness and sufficient training on the part of social workers regarding drug and alcohol abuse are necessary to foster therapeutic attitudes and skills for working with this population (p. 629).

             In the same manner, thorough knowledge about the underlying conditions of drug and alcohol abuse encourages social work practitioners to become committed to continuity of treatment and care for the clients. Findings from numerous researches have advanced that recovery for many persons who have alcohol- and drug-related problems necessitates a multifarious process instead of a single treatment approach. Social workers who recognize that drug and alcohol abuse is covariant with other detrimental conditions can recognize the need for extra treatment approaches for recovery; can accept the need to focus on relapse prevention; and are more willing to exert additional effort to attain greater treatment success by linking clients with appropriate treatment providers. In this approach, social workers who are aware of the complexities of drug and alcohol abuse as a social problem can effectively handle coordination and advocacy activities. Advocacy in social work practice with drug and alcohol abusers comprises all kinds of activities that are primarily aimed at achieving something beneficial for the client. These activities include advocating in order to gain access to a service such as a mental health program and perform referral; advocating for the pursuit of practical help such as collaboration with the Salvation Army to ask their help for assisting clients with travel costs to treatment program; and advocacy for support from people or groups that are intimate to the client to solicit their support for the treatment such as meeting with parents, school guidance counselor or officemates. Coordination, on the other hand, includes such activities whose key objective is to either provide or gather information regarding the client (Graham & Timney 1995, p. 433). However, the most important impact on social work practice of awareness on drug and alcohol abuse lies on the ability of the social worker to influence the formulation of social policies. According to Drake (2001) drug and alcohol abusers and other individuals who are responsible for creating social chaos are treated by the society as delinquents. This makes them social outcasts and a salient concern of social work practice. Social work is a profession that is governed by the core values of equality, freedom, liberty and justice. Social workers recognize that individual persons are innately entitled to equal treatment or consideration in the face of social scrutiny and conflicts. They are also cognizant of the fact that human beings are born with the capacity to exercise civil liberty and use rational choice and free will in formulating decisions about how they would lead their lives. However, the uniqueness of individuals and their diverse interests often come in conflict and impacts how the society view and treat them. Thus, in the event that any individual person encounters deviations of ideals or delinquency from what the societal norms dictate, social work practitioners intervene to facilitate differential treatment of individuals based on differences of circumstances (p. 12). Parrott (2002) posits that social work has always been linked with social policy since both express a shared commitment to social change. Social work’s key concerns are individual rights to social welfare; the rights and roles of every person and the expectations of society from people; modifying oppressive and unfair situations experienced by every individual, groups and the community; and working for justice in social policy formulation and implementation (p. 6). Dominelli (2002) states that social workers are advocates of social justice and are concerned with establishing equitable social structures, processes and outcomes that would arrange social relationships between individuals, groups and the community, empower every element of the society and lessen the consequences of social oppression. Adams, Dominelli & Payne (2005) report that social workers conduct analysis of the interplay between an individual’s psychological condition and the factors of the social environment that trigger deviancy and delinquency on a person. Drug and alcohol abuse is considered a social problem in social work because of its immeasurable impacts to the person, to his or her family and to the society. Therefore, the social worker involves himself or herself in assessing the entirety of experience of drug and alcohol abusers by considering associated factors such as poverty, depression or social antagonism in order to develop a comprehensive risk assessment (p. 40). Social workers who able to identify and understand causes of drug and alcohol abuse, effects to the person and other people who are close to him/her, protective factors, correlation with other social conditions such as violence or mental health problems, and treatment alternatives would be able to render a comprehensive analysis of risks of the social problem and would be able to participate in the government’s struggle to design potent social policies, programs and mechanisms that would combat the detrimental impacts of drug and alcohol abuse (Batsleer & Humphries 2000, p. 55).

3.0 Conceptual Framework

The framework to be used in the research is the Input-Process-Output Model. In the IPO model, a procedure is viewed as a series of boxes (processing elements) linked by inputs and outputs. For this study, the framework would be:

Figure 1. Conceptual Framework


4.0 Methodology

4.1                Nature of the Research

This research will partially base its findings through quantitative research methods because it allows the research problem to be conducted in a very specific and set terms (Creswell, 1994). This study will also employ qualitative research method because it will attempt to find and build theories that will explain the relationship of one variable with another variable through qualitative elements in research. This permits a flexible and iterative approach. During data gathering the choice and design of methods are constantly modified, based on ongoing analysis. Primary and secondary data will be used in this study. Primary data will be the responses of social workers in Hong Kong while the secondary data will be collated from academic materials and research publications about social work practices and social problems.

4.2               Sampling Design

4.2.1           Target Population

Basically, the target population this study are the social workers from different NGO’s in major cities in Hong Kong.

4.2.2 Sampling Frame

With regards to the sampling frame, the samples are chosen exclusively based on their location in major cities in Hong Kong and work engagement concerning alcohol and drug abuse prevention. Meaning, subjects will be chosen based on their location and experience about alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

4.2.3         Sample Size

The sample size of this study will be at least 50 social workers from different NGO’s in major cities in Hong Kong.

4.2.4         Sampling Process

The selection of the subjects will be based Slovin’s formula. Thus, the sampling procedure for the population in this research will be determined by Slovin’s formula. The formula of Slovin is given as follows (Creswell, 1994):


4.3               Data Collection Methods

4.3.1 Design of Data Collection

For the design of data collection, the respondents will be opted to fill out a self-administered questionnaire. Ideally, the respondents will grade each statement in the survey-questionnaire using a Likert scale (Barnett, V. 1991), with a five-response scale wherein respondents will be given five response choices.

The equivalent weights for the answers will be:


4.3.2         Research Instrument and Its Contents

The researcher opted to use the questionnaire as the instrument since it is easy to construct having the rules and principles of construction are easy to follow. Moreover, copies of the questionnaire could reach a considerable number of respondents either by mail or by personal distribution. Generally, responses to a questionnaire are objectified and standardised and these make tabulation easy. But more importantly, the respondents’ replies are of their own free will because there is no interviewer to influence them. This is one way to avoid biases, particularly the interviewers’ bias. The researcher will also use graph and charts for data presentation.

The researcher will exclude the 5 respondents who will be initially used for the validation of the instrument.  The researcher will also tally, score and tabulate all the responses in the provided survey questions. It shall consist of a list of specific questions and the researcher does not deviate from the list or inject any extra remarks into the survey process. The researcher may encourage the respondents to clarify vague statements or to further elaborate on brief comments. Otherwise, the researcher attempts to be objective and tries not to influence the interviewer's statements. The researcher does not share his/her own beliefs and opinions.  

4.4               Data Collection Process

The researcher will exclude the 5 respondents who will be initially used for the validation of the instrument.  The researcher will also tally, score and tabulate all the responses in the provided survey questions. It shall consist of a list of specific questions and the researcher does not deviate from the list or inject any extra remarks into the survey process. The researcher may encourage the respondents to clarify vague statements or to further elaborate on brief comments. Otherwise, the researcher attempts to be objective and tries not to influence the interviewer's statements. The researcher does not share his/her own beliefs and opinions.

4.5               Data Analysis

            4.5.1 Univariate analysis

For Univariate Analysis, the researcher will be using the so-called descriptive statistic for the demographic profile of the subkects.  This includes statistical measurements concerning central tendency and dispersion such as the mean and standard deviation.

            4.5.2 Bivariate analysis

For Bivariate analysis, the subjects’ perceptions concerning their work practices will be compared towards their perception regarding alcohol and drug abuse in Hong Kong. T-test analysis will be use.

5.0           Budget and Schedule




Amodeo, M. & Fassler, I. (2000). ‘Social Workers and Substance-Abusing Clients: Caseload Composition and Competency Self-Ratings,’ American Journal           of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, vol. 26, no. 4, p. 629.

Barnett, V. (1991). Sample Survey principles and methods. Hodder publisher.       ISBN: 0 340545534

Batsleer, J. & Humphries, B.  (2000). Welfare, Exclusion and Political Agency, Routledge, London. 

Creswell, J.W. (1994). Research design. Qualitative and quantitative approaches.             Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Dominelli, L. (1997). Sociology for Social Work, Macmillan, London.

Dominelli, L. (2002). Anti-oppressive social work theory and practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire.

Drake, R. F. (2001). The Principles of Social Policy, Palgrave, New York.

Graham, K. & Timney, C.B. (1995). ‘Continuity of Care in Addictions Treatment: The Role of Advocacy and Coordination in Case Management,’ American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, vol. 21, no. 4, p. 433.

Long, R. (2006). Chapter 1: The Sociological Approach to Social Problems, Del Mar College Corpus Christi, Texas, viewed 24 November 2009, <>.

Parrott, L. (2002). Social Work and Social Care, Routledge, London.





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