DSWD Philippines Explained: Department of Social Welfare and Development

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is a Philippine government body in charge of executing social welfare and development programs and services. It seeks to improve the well-being of people, families, and communities by meeting their social, economic, and developmental requirements.

Note: Contact DSWD Hotline for Inquiries here.

This agency is involved in a variety of initiatives, including poverty alleviation, disaster response and management, child and youth welfare, vulnerable sector protection, and community empowerment. The department is also crucial in providing social services, assisting marginalized groups, and ensuring the protection and promotion of individuals’ rights, particularly those in difficult circumstances.

dswd meaning department of social welfare and development


DSWD has undergone a series of transformations since its inception. It has evolved from a small entity within the government structure to an independent department responsible for the social welfare of the nation. Here is a timeline of the department’s history:

  • 1915: The birth of the Public Welfare Board (PWB) ushered in an era of regulation and coordination of all social service entities.
  • 1921: The PWB was dissolved and replaced by the Bureau of Public Welfare, functioning under the Department of Public Instruction.
  • 1939: The Department of Health and Public Welfare came into existence through Commonwealth Act No. 439.
  • 1941: The Bureau of Public Welfare joined the Department of Health and Public Welfare, assuming control of all public child-caring institutions and child welfare services.
  • 1947: The Bureau of Public Welfare was abolished by President Manuel A. Roxas, leading to the creation of the Social Welfare Commission (SWC) under the Office of the President.
  • 1948: President Elpidio Quirino birthed the President’s Action Committee on Social Amelioration (PACSA) to drive socio-economic reforms in rural areas.
  • 1951: The merging of the SWC and PACSA resulted in the formation of the Social Welfare Administration (SWA), marking the start of an integrated public welfare program.
  • 1968: Republic Act 5416 or the Social Welfare Act of 1968 elevated the SWA to the Department status, aligning it with other social agencies such as health and education.
  • 1976: The Department of Social Welfare was rebranded as the Department of Social Services and Development (DSSD) by Presidential Decree No. 994, signed by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
  • 1978: The change in the form of government led to the renaming of the DSSD to the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD).
  • 1987: The MSSD was restructured and renamed Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under President Corazon C. Aquino’s Executive Order 123. Executive Order No. 292, the Revised Administration Code of 1987, further defined DSWD’s statutory authority.
  • 1991: The Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act 7160) resulted in the devolution of DSWD basic services to local government units.
  • 1998: President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s Executive Order No. 15 aimed at strengthening the repositioning efforts of the DSWD following the implementation of the Local Government Code of 1991.
  • 2003: Executive Order No. 221 was issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo amending Executive Order No. 15, redefining the mandate, roles, powers, and functions of the DSWD.

Over time, DSWD has adopted and shed various names, roles, and responsibilities in response to the changing social and political climate. The historical account laid out in this document traces the development of the agency , offering insights into its journey and the factors that have shaped its current state.

history of dswd

Primary Role and Objectives

DSWD serves various major social welfare and development functions. Its key goals are as follows:

1. Poverty Alleviation

The DSWD is critical to implementing programs and initiatives that aim to reduce poverty and improve the socioeconomic conditions of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. This includes empowering individuals and communities through financial assistance, livelihood support, and skill training.

2. Social Assistance Programs

The department oversees several social assistance programs that help individuals and families in need. Conditional cash transfer programs, food assistance, and other forms of aid to ease immediate challenges and enhance overall well-being may be included. These programs aim to provide a safety net for those who are struggling and help them become self-sufficient in the long term.

3. Child and Youth Welfare

The DSWD is also actively involved in the protection and promotion of children’s and youth’s rights. Efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse, exploitation, and neglect are included. The department also aims to provide educational assistance and create a safe environment for young people.

4. Disaster Response and Management

During natural or man-made disasters, the DSWD is vital in delivering emergency relief and rehabilitation aid. This includes distributing relief products, providing financial assistance, and coordinating efforts to meet the immediate needs of affected people.

5. Protection of Vulnerable Sectors

The DSWD prioritizes the rights and well-being of vulnerable groups such as the elderly, people with disabilities, and indigenous communities. This includes the deployment of initiatives that meet these sectors’ distinct needs and concerns.

6. Community Empowerment

The department seeks to help communities become self-sufficient and resilient. Some examples include community organizing, skill development, and other programs that empower individuals and communities to actively participate in their development.

7. Policy Development and Advocacy

The DSWD is also active in policy development for social welfare and development. It also participates in advocacy initiatives to improve social awareness and build a more inclusive and equitable society.

Socio-economic Programs and Welfare Services

Following these key objectives, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) implements various programs and services aimed at addressing the social welfare and development needs of the population. Some of the key programs and initiatives include the following:

1. Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)

A flagship poverty-reduction initiative that distributes cash rewards to extremely poor households in exchange for meeting specific health and education requirements. The program aims to break the poverty cycle by investing in children’s health and education.

2. Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan—Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS)

This community-driven development program encourages communities to establish their own needs and goals. It entails collaborative planning, decision-making, and project implementation to address local challenges such as infrastructure, health, and education.

3. Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP)

The SLP aims to reduce poverty by promoting sustainable livelihood options. The program offers skill training, capital assistance, and market connections to assist individuals and families in earning a living and improving their economic well-being.

4. Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens

This program provides cash support to disadvantaged senior citizens to supplement their daily subsistence and medical requirements. It strives to enhance the living conditions of the elderly, who are especially vulnerable to poverty and neglect.

5. Listahanan

This program, formerly known as the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), is a database of poor households in the Philippines. It is used to identify beneficiaries of various social welfare programs to ensure that help reaches those who require it the most.

6. Disaster Response and Management

The DSWD is actively involved in disaster response and management, providing relief and rehabilitation aid to disaster-affected populations both during and after disasters. This includes relief-goods delivery, cash-for-work programs, and psychosocial assistance.

7. Adoption Program

The DSWD also facilitates legal child adoption, ensuring that children are placed in loving and secure households. The initiative strives to give orphaned, abandoned, or neglected children a brighter future.

8. Protective Services Program

This program is dedicated to the protection of individuals and groups in difficult situations, such as victims of abuse, exploitation, and violence. Counseling, legal support, and temporary shelter are among the services provided.

9. Juvenile Justice and Welfare Program

The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Program is intended to protect the rights of children who have run afoul of the law. It advocates for a restorative and rehabilitative approach that allows young offenders to reintegrate into society.

10. Recovery and Reintegration Program for Trafficked Persons (RRPTP)

This program focuses on the recovery and reintegration of human trafficking victims. It offers survivors resources such as refuge, counseling, legal assistance, and skill training to assist them in rebuilding their lives.

11. PAMANA Program

The Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) initiative seeks to improve access to essential social services for impoverished communities while also promoting responsive governance. Through this program, the government aims to address the root causes of insurgency and conflict by providing sustainable livelihood opportunities and infrastructure development in these marginalized areas.

12. International Social Welfare Services for Filipino Nationals program (ISWSFN)

This initiative supports Filipinos abroad, including migrant workers and overseas Filipino nationals, during crises by urging them to seek aid from Philippine embassies in their respective host nations. Whether facing issues like labor exploitation, human trafficking, or various forms of abuse, the program actively advocates for the utilization of Philippine embassies. This ensures that Filipinos have a dependable and easily accessible resource to turn to for assistance, promoting their safety and well-being while living abroad.

13. Center & Residential Care Facilities

These establishments deliver around-the-clock assistance, presenting alternative family care options for economically disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals or families navigating a crisis. They commonly furnish a secure and nurturing setting for those who might be without a home, at risk of homelessness, or confronting various difficulties.

These centers deliver diverse services, encompassing emergency shelter, meals, counseling, and aid in obtaining permanent housing or employment. Their objective is to offer temporary support, enabling individuals and families to restore stability and achieve self-sufficiency.

14. Gender and Development (GAD)

This program recognizes the importance of integrating gender considerations into every facet of development, impacting government planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies, programs, and projects.

15. Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB)

The Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) Process seeks to guarantee the execution of priority projects to alleviate poverty.

16. Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS)

The AICS Program provides financial assistance for supplementary support services or specific needs that individuals or families may have, including medical aid, burial expenses, transportation, education, food, and other essentials. The program’s objective is to aid underprivileged citizens in fulfilling their basic requirements.

The department’s efforts are diversified, to address numerous aspects of social welfare and development to create a more inclusive and compassionate society. Through its initiatives, the DSWD aims to empower individuals and communities, enabling them to improve their quality of life and become active participants in nation-building.

DSWD Centers and Institutions

1. Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC)

This is a 24-hour residential facility that offers social work interventions for children aged 0–6. Children who have been abused, neglected, abandoned, or exploited, as well as those with particular requirements, such as children at risk or those in need of alternative family care, can get protection and rehabilitation assistance through temporary residential care.

It also offers appropriate and responsive social work interventions and services to address the growth and development, as well as the safety and security, needs of very young children who have been abused.

2. The Regional Haven

The Regional Haven for Women and Girls offers an alternative form of family care through 24-hour group living temporarily to disadvantaged and abused women and girl victim-survivors and their qualified dependents whose needs cannot be adequately met by their own families and relatives over time.

3. Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY)

The RRCY is a residential facility meant to provide rigorous therapy for the rehabilitation of CICL whose sentences have been suspended. It provides a caring, out-of-home environment for youngsters who require rehabilitation.

Partner Agencies

To achieve its objectives and carry out its programs effectively, the DSWD collaborates with various government agencies, private organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international partners. Some of these include:

  • Department of Health (DOH)
  • Department of Education (DepEd)
  • Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
  • Philippine National Police (PNP)
  • National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
  • Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Philippine Red Cross
  • Save the Children Philippines
  • Plan International Philippines

The above are just some of the organizations that the DSWD collaborates with to ensure the successful implementation of its programs and services. Through these partnerships, the department can reach a wider audience and provide more comprehensive support to those in need.

Aside from collaborating with partner agencies, the DSWD also works closely with local government units (LGUs) and community-based organizations to address specific social welfare and development issues that are unique to each locality. This approach allows for a more targeted and tailored approach to addressing the needs of different communities.

Video: DSWD Quality Policy

This video showcases the function of the DSWD, which is to create a more socially just and compassionate society by addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of the population. Their role is further emphasized, which is to provide assistance and support to individuals and families who are experiencing poverty, abuse, and other forms of social injustice. Through their programs and services, the DSWD aims to uplift the lives of these individuals and ensure that their basic needs are met.


With its various programs, services, and partnerships, the DSWD continues to be a vital force in promoting social welfare and development in the Philippines. As the country faces challenges such as poverty, disaster resilience, and displacement, the department plays a