5 Things Every Social Worker Should Know About Poverty

A social worker has an important job because they are concerned about the welfare of families, communities, individuals, and groups. Oftentimes, social workers are helping people who live in poverty and must evaluate how to best meet the needs of individuals and communities. There are five things every social worker should know about poverty.

1. There is No Single “Cure” for Poverty

Most people would love to eradicate world hunger or help those in poverty-stricken situations, but it is important to remember that there is no single “cure” for poverty. Even though poverty usually refers to economic poverty, there can also be poverty of the spirit, health or attitude. A social worker needs to remember that they are not going to be able to eliminate world-hunger, but they might be able to help a single person or family learn how to become self-sufficient.

2. All People Deserve Dignity

The very core of the Declaration of Independence states “unalienable rights” have been given to all human beings by their creator. Governments have been created to protect the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Although it is a fundamental right, some have never had the resources or ability to enjoy these civil liberties. Advocating for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves helps the poor, mentally ill, physically disable or those who have other disabling conditions enjoy their fundamental rights and obtain the dignity they deserve.

3. Poverty Occurs in All Races and Cultures

As a social worker, you might unknowingly create your own biases and prejudices while working within a demanding career. Keep in mind that poverty can be found in all corners of the world and within all races, cultures and backgrounds. In fact, poverty can be viewed as an environmental issue since natural resources determine the basic economic wealth of millions of people. Social workers need to keep in mind that decisions and choices of others should be respected since they work with people and groups from all walks of life.

4. There are Hidden Rules within the Class you are Raised

Many of us don’t think about the so-called rules within our social class, but they are there. When it comes to money, those in poverty may view it as something to be used and spent. The middle class view it as an asset to be managed and those who are wealthy view finances as something to be conserved or invested. Dr. Ruby Payne, a well-known expert and author of on poverty explains many more hidden rules within this chart. Social workers need to keep these hidden rules in mind when working with their clientele.

5. Education is a Key Component

Providing community education on issues that can help reduce problems such as limited child-care, gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse, or educational limitations can make a difference to those in poverty. As a social worker, you may need to advocate for clients in poverty to help them gain much-needed resources. A social worker gives special attention to helping members of groups who may be excluded from becoming self-reliant by providing education and resources.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs

Social workers should keep these five things in mind as they help people and groups who live in poverty. The job of a social worker is demanding, but it is a fulfilling vocation for someone who has a passion for helping those in need.