Social worker's attitudes to poverty and the poor

Becker, Saul (1987) Social worker's attitudes to poverty and the poor. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.



Field social workers are in daily working contact with the poor and deprived. In Britain as many as nine out of ten users of social work services are claimants of social security; over half are dependent on means tested social assistance. Most referrals to social workers are for benefit and housing problems.

Social work trainers, managers, and agencies expect social workers to have positive attitudes to clients. Professional training is increasingly confronting racist and sexist attitudes amongst student social workers; but very little is known about social workers' attitudes to poor people or how these attitudes affect the nature and delivery of social work services to claimants - the main user group of social services.

This study explores the attitudes to poverty of over 450 field social workers. As a group these social workers have relatively "positive" attitudes to the poor and feel very strongly - in a supportive direction - about a number of issues confronting social security claimants. Poverty itself is defined in relative terms, as a lack of opportunities for choice and participation in customs and practices accepted by the non poor population. The poor are viewed very much as victims of injustice and structural inequalities.

But most social workers employ individualising methods of work aimed at helping clients adapt to their financial status and circumstances. Less individually focused approaches are generally unpopular. Organisational structures, priorities, and dominant methods of working are powerful constraints on alternative approaches. Current methods reinforce definitions of acceptable practice.

The study raises important issues for the operation, practice, management and organisation of social work; in addition there are a number of implications for the research of attitudes to poverty. Social workers' attitudes to poverty and the poor are characterised by contradiction and paradox, as is social work itself. The study of these attitudes requires a number of complementary research methodologies.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:MacPherson, S.
Uncontrolled Keywords:Social worker attitude, Sociology, Human services, Labor
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
ID Code:1223
Deposited By:June Walsh
Deposited On:13 Apr 2010 10:48
Last Modified:13 Apr 2010 10:48

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