Sok1 disc2 poverty in area urban area

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SOK1 DISC2 Poverty in Area Urban Area

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By DUE FRIDAY  4/1/16 by 8:30pm New York Time Using the Uploaded Resoruces in the in-text citations and References.

For this Discussion, locate information regarding poverty statistics in New Haven, Connecticut. Determine efforts that are currently in place to address poverty in this area.


Post by Thursday 4/1/ 16  a description of efforts currently in place to address poverty in the area where you live. Suggest two strategies for enhancing the current antipoverty efforts in your community and explain the rationale behind your suggestions.


Submit a By Friday 8:30pm New york Time a description 2 Pagea description of the community you selected (New Haven, Connecticut). Then, explain the strengths and challenges associated with that community based on its characteristics. Finally, explain how you, as a social worker, might help the community view its perceived challenges as a strength.


Be Sure to Use Proper APA formating, Reference Page and in-Text Citations

References/Paper Resources

·         Center for Economic and Social Justice. (n.d.). Defining economic justice and social justice. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from

·         Mantle, G., & Backwith, D. (2010). Poverty and social work. British Journal of Social Work, 40(8), 2380–2397.


·         Krumer-Nevo, M., Monnickendam, M., & Weiss-Gal, I. (2009). Poverty-aware social work practice: A conceptual framework for social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 45(2), 225–243.

Defining Economic Justice and Social Justice

Defining Our Terms

One definition of justice is “giving to each what he or she is due.” The problem is knowing what is “due”.

Functionally, “justice” is a set of universal principles which guide people in judging what is right and what is wrong,

no matter what culture and society they live in. Justice is one of the four “cardinal virtues” of classical moral

philosophy, along with courage, temperance (self-control) and prudence (efficiency). (Faith, hope and charity are

considered to be the three “religious” virtues.) Virtues or “good habits” help individuals to develop fully their human

potentials, thus enabling them to serve their own self-interests as well as work in harmony with others for their

common good.

The ultimate purpose of all the virtues is to elevate the dignity and sovereignty of the human person.

Distinguishing Justice From Charity

While often confused, justice is distinct from the virtue of charity. Charity, derived from the Latin word caritas, or

“divine love,” is the soul of justice. Justice supplies the material foundation for charity.

While justice deals with the substance and rules for guiding ordinary, everyday human interactions, charity deals

with the spirit of human interactions and with those exceptional cases where strict application of the rules is not

appropriate or sufficient. Charity offers expedients during times of hardship. Charity compels us to give to relieve

the suffering of a person in need. The highest aim of charity is the same as the highest aim of justice: to elevate

each person to where he does not need charity but can become charitable himself.

True charity involves giving without any expectation of return. But it is not a substitute for justice.

Defining Social Justice

Social justice encompasses economic justice. Social justice is the virtue which guides us in creating those

organized human interactions we call institutions. In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with

access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Social justice also

imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions

as tools for personal and social development.

Defining Economic Justice

Economic justice, which touches the individual person as well as the social order, encompasses the moral

principles which guide us in designing our economic institutions. These institutions determine how each person

earns a living, enters into contracts, exchanges goods and services with others and otherwise produces an

independent material foundation for his or her economic sustenance. The ultimate purpose of economic justice is to

free each person to engage creatively in the unlimited work beyond economics, that of the mind and the spirit.

The Three Principles of Economic Justice

Like every system, economic justice involves input, output, and feedback for restoring harmony or balance between

input and output. Within the system of economic justice as defined by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler, there are

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three essential and interdependent principles: Participative Justice (the input principle), Distributive Justice (the

out-take principle), and Social Justice (the feedback principle). Like the legs of a three-legged stool, if any of these

principles is weakened or missing, the system of economic justice will collapse.

Participative Justice

“Participative Justice” describes how one makes “input” to the economic process in order to make a living. It

requires equal opportunity in gaining access to private property in productive assets as well as equality of

opportunity to engage in productive work. The principle of participation does not guarantee equal results, but

requires that every person be guaranteed by society’s institutions the equal human right to make a productive

contribution to the economy, both through one’s labor (as a worker) and through one’s productive capital (as an

owner). Thus, this principle rejects monopolies, special privileges, and other exclusionary social barriers to

economic self-reliance.

Distributive Justice

“Distributive Justice” defines the “output” or “out-take” rights of an economic system matched to each person’s labor

and capital inputs. Through the distributional features of private property within a free and open marketplace,

distributive justice becomes automatically linked to participative justice, and incomes become linked to productive

contributions. The principle of distributive justice involves the sanctity of property and contracts. It turns to the free

and open marketplace, not government, as the most objective and democratic means for determining the just price,

the just wage, and the just profit.

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Many confuse the distributive principles of justice with those of charity. Charity involves the concept “to each

according to his needs,” whereas “distributive justice” is based on the idea “to each according to his contribution.”

Confusing these principles leads to endless conflict and scarcity, forcing government to intervene excessively to

maintain social order.

Distributive justice follows participative justice and breaks down when all persons are not given equal opportunity to

acquire and enjoy the fruits of income-producing property.

Social Justice

“Social Justice” is the “feedback” principle that detects distortions of the input and/or out-take principles and guides

the corrections needed to restore a just and balanced economic order for all. This principle is violated by unjust

barriers to participation, by monopolies or by some using their property to harm or exploit others.

Economic harmony results when Participative and Distributive Justice are operating fully for every person within a

system or institution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “economic harmonies” as “Laws of social adjustment

under which the self-interest of one man or group of men, if given free play, will produce results offering the

maximum advantage to other men and the community as a whole.” Social Justice offers guidelines for controlling

monopolies, building checks-and-balances within social institutions, and re-synchronizing distribution (outtake) with

participation (input). The first two principles of economic justice flow from the eternal human search for justice in

general, which automatically requires a balance between input and outtake, i.e., “to each according to what he is

due.” Social Justice, on the other hand, reflects the human striving for other universal values such as Truth, Love

and Beauty. It compels people to look beyond what is, to what ought to be, and continually repair and improve their

systems for the good of every person.

It should be noted that Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler referred to the third principle as “the principle of limitation”

as a restraint on human tendencies toward greed and monopoly that lead to exclusion and exploitation of others.

Given the potential synergies inherent in economic justice in today’s high technology world, CESJ feels that the

concept of “social justice” is more appropriate and more-encompassing than the term “limitation” in describing the

third component of economic justice. Furthermore, the harmony that results from the operation of social justice is

more consistent with the truism that a society that seeks peace must first work for justice.

(For more discussion on these terms, see Chapter 5 of The Capitalist Manifesto, by Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer J.

Adler (Random House, 1958) and Chapters 3 and 4 of Curing World Poverty: The New Role of Property, John H.

Miller, ed., Social Justice Review.)

Copyright © 2016 Center for Economic and Social Justice. All Rights Reserved.

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Poverty and Social Work

Greg Mantle and Dave Backwith *

Greg Mantle is Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at Anglia
Ruskin University. Greg is a GSCC-registered social worker and has research interests in

family court work and restorative justice. Dave Backwith lectures on social policy on social
work courses at Anglia Ruskin University and has research interests in mutual aid, poverty
and social exclusion and health inequalities.

*Correspondence to Dave Backwith, Department of Social Work and Social Policy, Faculty of
Health and Social Care, Anglia Ruskin University, William Harvey Building (3rd Floor),
Rivermead Campus, Chelmsford, CM1 1SQ, UK. E-mail: [email protected]


This article explores the conceptual, policy and practical links between poverty and com-

munity-oriented social work (COSW). It argues that social workers should be directly

involved in the relief of poverty and that the approach most likely to prove successful

in this context is one in which practitioners retain close contact with the local commu-

nity, working in partnership with a joint focus on prevention and empowerment.

Although academic, government and mainstream professional interest in COSW has

waned over the past decades in the UK, there are grounds to believe that this may

change and that lessons can be learned from COSW in other countries.

Keywords: Poverty, Community Social Work

Accepted: April 2010


In 2007/08, the number of people living in poverty in the UK rose, for the third
year running, to a total of 13.5 million, while income inequality reached its
highest level since 1961 (Brewer et al., 2009). Thus, after ten years of a New
Labour government committed to eradicating child poverty and combating
financial exclusion (HM Treasury, 1999), inequality and deprivation were at
historically high levels, and this before the current recession took hold. We
were recently brought sharply to our senses about the seriousness of the situ-
ation by a television programme that featured a wealthy entrepreneur

# The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of

The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.

British Journal of Social Work (2010) 40, 2380–2397
Advance Access publication May 30, 2010

experiencing some of the more deprived aspects of life in Dundee, Scotland.
This included a religious charity distributing bags of food to starving people
and a young man eking out a miserable existence in a flat without electricity,
gas, nourishment or furniture. We were moved into debate and action, decid-
ing to use some of the energy to write this article, as a challenge to ‘social work
under capitalism’. Our two key questions are ‘Why are established social ser-
vices not more involved in anti-poverty work?’ and ‘What form of social work
would be best suited to such endeavour?’.

Taking the latter question first, a critical social work perspective would seek
to challenge capitalism on the young man’s and others’ behalf. A systems
approach would, perhaps, seek to link him into community resources and net-
works. A bureaucratic, functionalist response would be to assess him and con-
clude that he was (likely to be) ineligible for services (Payne, 2005). So, part of
the answer to the first question is that it depends on what one understands the
purpose and nature of social services to be. A further thread is concerned with
what social workers could do about poverty if they were expected to do some-
thing about it. Adopting a critical perspective in social work is traditionally
associated with a focus on poverty and we will spend some time unpacking
what this might mean and entail. Similarly, having a community perspective
in social work can be linked with a concern for poverty (Pierson, 2008). Fur-
thermore, these two viewpoints (critical and community) clearly overlap.
Our aim is to examine this terrain closely in order to establish the similarities
and differences between a social work driven to challenge poverty and a social
work that is ‘community-oriented’. We have opted to use the notion of
‘community-oriented social work’ (COSW) as our central focus, describing
its major features and contours, and teasing out how it can be understood
vis-à-vis other, related concepts. So, for example, we appraise its association
with the ideas of ‘patch’ (local area), prevention, partnership and empower-
ment and, in so doing, we discuss relevant theories and approaches employed
in social work.

Our own view—from a critical perspective—is that poverty should be
seen as a structural problem and this, arguably, is also implicit in the
IFSW/BASW definition of social work, which includes the aim of ‘empow-
erment and liberation of people to enhance well-being’ (British Association
of Social Workers, 2002, p. 1). This is not to say that a critical perspective
has been or is commonplace in social work and, given the dominant neo-
liberalist ideology of the times, an ascendancy of more individualistic
approaches is, perhaps, to be expected. Gilligan’s finding that of applicants
for social work qualification training, ‘Around half arrive with explanations
for social problems which point primarily to “individual” causes, while the
overwhelming majority are most unlikely to be thinking in terms of
“radical” solutions’ (Gilligan, 2007, p. 739) suggests that even training pro-
grammes adopting a strong emphasis on structural explanations will
struggle to get their message across. Similarly, it is not hard to understand
why state social workers might struggle to be engaged in anti-poverty work,

Poverty and Social Work 2381

given the performance management and individualising approach imposed
via the government’s modernisation agenda. As Stepney (2006) points out,
these are difficult and challenging times for social work in Britain.
However, both from a moral perspective (it is wrong to ignore suffering)
and in terms of the economy (exclusion is wasteful), there are good
reasons why social workers should be ‘willing and able’ to tackle poverty
and its effects. After all, poverty is associated with just about every social
ill one can think of and with which social workers grapple. Overall, it is
also remaining relatively untouched by extant government policies (Hills
et al., 2009). Since 1990, the proportion of households below the standard
poverty line has remained above 17 per cent, peaking at 27 per cent in
2001, and poor households have become increasingly polarised geographi-
cally, while wealthy households have become more segregated and concen-
trated in the south-east of England. Rich and poor are now living further
apart and, in some urban areas, more than half of all households exist
below the poverty line, on the ‘breadline’ (Dorling et al., 2007).

Community-oriented social work

Definition in this area of theory, policy and practice is particularly fraught
because so many different meanings have been ascribed to constituent and
combined terms over the years and across different countries. ‘Community’
itself is a highly contested term. It can refer to geographical locality or
shared interest (Bulmer, 1987), for example, and is sometimes employed
loosely, as if such distinction is unimportant. There are conceptual and
theoretical connections with ‘culture’, ‘identity’ and with ‘social capital’.
Social workers may be said to practise in the community, to work with
the community and to work with ‘minority communities’, such as gypsies
and travellers (Cemlyn, 2008), and communities of need such as the dis-
abled or minority ethnic groups. Social work in deeply divided ‘commu-
nities’ is now beginning to receive academic attention worldwide
(Heenan, 2004; Baum, 2007). When ‘community’ is combined with ‘care’
or ‘work’, further definitional complexities arise (Ritchie, 1994; Hill,
2007). Payne (2005) examines the broad notions and expressions of social
and community development and their connections with social work. He
concludes that while these perspectives offer a wider social focus for inter-
vention with oppressed people than systems theory (which looks at the
‘interpersonal’ level), they both serve to reproduce the existing social order.

Mayo (1994) provides an account of the development of community
(social) work in Britain, from the ‘settlement houses’—local centres for
delivering social work services established towards the end of the nine-
teenth century—to the Seebohm Report (1968, p. 147), which called for
‘a wider conception of social service, directed to the well-being of the
whole community and not only of social casualties, and seeing the

2382 Greg Mantle and Dave Backwith

community it serves as the basis of its authority, resources and effective-
ness’, to the flourishing of community-oriented work in the UK through
the 1970s and 1980s and from this to the interest in community and preven-
tion apparent in the Barclay Report (1982). As Ferguson and Woodward
(2009) show, a community orientation has historically been closely associ-
ated with radical social work theory and practice.

Employing the concept of ‘community-oriented social work’ (COSW)
carries pitfalls for the unwary and it is important to begin by acknowledging
that community work is not limited to social work. It has strong links, for
example, with youth work and with housing tenants’ associations and the
like. On the other hand, a social worker could be involved in very similar
ways within a community—in terms of political participation, advocacy
and community organising. Mendes (2009) sees much in common
between social work and community development and provides a concise
exposition of the relationship between them, including an account of how
social work constructs community development and vice versa. Interest-
ingly, he relates the hostility of some community development educators
and practitioners towards social work to:

. . . a false construction of community development as inherently radical and
social work as inherently conservative. In reality, both have conservative
and radical components . . . many contemporary programmes such as neigh-
bourhood renewal are based on working within our existing socio-political
system rather than developing strategies to explicitly challenge social struc-
tures (Mendes, 2009, p. 249).

It is fair to suggest that, within the social work context, ‘community-oriented’
carries a different meaning from ‘community-based’, although the difference
in terms of actual practice may be slight—Pierson (2008) makes a
similar argument, using the notion of ‘community-level’ rather than
‘community-oriented’, but arguing that whereas community-based
approaches start with the needs of individuals:

. . . the assumption behind community-level interventions is that a vigorous
community that has the capacity to solve problems will be able to provide a
high level of well-being for those who live there. In short it seeks to change
the community rather than individuals (Pierson, 2008, p. 23).

Characteristics of COSW

Drawing on previous attempts made to establish conceptual models for com-
munity work and community development (Butcher, 1984; York, 1984;
Payne, 2005; Stepney and Popple, 2008), it seems reasonable to present the
following four ideas as defining characteristics of COSW: (i) it has an
association with empowerment; (ii) it has a local focus; (iii) it is concerned
with prevention; and (iv) it requires partnership. We now discuss these
aspects in turn, relating each as best we can to poverty and its relief.

Poverty and Social Work 2383

(i) COSW and empowerment

COSW enjoys a ready and longstanding association with empowerment
approaches in social work (Lee, 2001; Butcher et al., 2007). Mirroring the
concern-with-poverty discussion addressed above, empowerment has both
an individual and a wider focus. And, like community, it is a contested
concept that is often used loosely. It could be argued, for instance, that indi-
viduals can be empowered, pretty much whoever they are, through financial
elevation if she or he is impoverished, through self-actualisation should they
be well-to-do. Traditional one-to-one social work might suffice for empow-
erment of this kind. Well as such individualistic empowerment might fit
with the on-going commodification of welfare, we would argue that it is
inherently limited by its failure to address structural constraints that ‘disem-
power’. Hence, we would argue for an approach that sees empowerment as
a process that aims to enable people to take control over their lives by
‘sharing power and working towards establishing egalitarian [social]
relations’ (Dominelli, 2006, p. 45). In this collective sense, poor people, at
the level of nation or more broadly as a group, can be empowered
through a shift away from the worst excesses of capitalism, while a commu-
nity—in the sense of persons living in a geographical location—can also be
‘empowered’. COSW can therefore be readily associated with these two
latter meanings of empowerment social work.

Given that the championing of oppressed groups in society must entail con-
flict with established authority and serve to draw social workers into political
activism, this aspect of COSW may be especially difficult to sustain within the
management-dominated, highly regulated statutory sector of social work. The
idea that there are few prospects for COSW within statutory UK social ser-
vices has been commonplace since the early 1990s. However, as Hadley and
Leidy (1996) point out, COSW can flourish even in a less than conducive
climate: ‘It is remarkable . . . to note a renewed interest in integrated, commu-
nity orientated services in the United States, a country whose marketisation of
public services has apparently been particularly influential in inspiring current
British reforms’ (Hadley and Leidy, 1996, pp. 823 – 4).

In a similar vein, Goldsworthy (2002) called for a ‘resurrection’ of
community-oriented and social action approaches in Australian social
work. While such calls to action might be relatively sparse in the academic
literature, they can be found. Collins (2009), for example, has recently
argued that social workers might learn ‘for instance, from the commitment,
tenacity and organizational skills’ (p. 348) of the anti-capitalist and other
collective movements. In relation to COSW, he also argues for a shift
away from individualised practice ‘towards a greater focus on collective
support and empowerment’, concluding that ‘A newly invigorated move-
ment towards community development perspectives would firmly

2384 Greg Mantle and Dave Backwith

emphasize the “social” in social work and a collectivist approach to social
problems’ (Collins, 2009, p. 345).

In a similar vein, while accepting that the statutory roots of social work
differentiate it from social movements, Thompson (2002) argues that
there are significant parallels:

‘. . . not least the push towards the empowerment and social transformation
of which Payne (2002) writes. Professional social work is not simply an
organ of the state and is therefore in a position to seek to influence the
state and the political sphere more broadly’ (Thompson, 2002, p. 720).

There is general evidence to suggest that empowerment approaches,
specifically in social work, would be expected to prove effective. Empower-
ment initiatives have been shown to lead to improved health outcomes and
empowerment is accepted as a viable public health strategy (WHO, 2006),
for example. However, there is very little empirical evidence on the efficacy
of COSW in terms of empowerment and what does exist is based on
small-scale, qualitative research. For example, Itzhaky and Dekel (2008)
gauge the effectiveness of a community programme aimed at empowering
Jewish Israeli women, concluding that such intervention did empower
women and increase their participation in community activities. A total
of thirty-eight women participated in the study.

In relation to poverty, the empowerment face of COSW would
be immediately turned towards two related aspects of life in poor
communities—income poverty and limited access to capital/credit. In the
UK, high rates of unemployment, especially for young people and ethnic
minorities, continue to blight people’s lives, while low-paid employment
has similar, if less readily acknowledged, effects. Recession brings
additional misery and hits hardest in areas of the country already disadvan-
taged. In Wales, for example, already ravaged by the loss of coal-mining
and related industry, the local authority of Blaenau Gwent had the
highest rate of eligible population claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the
UK (Crockett, 2009; Kenway et al., 2009). In regards to the difficulties
poor people experience in gaining access to capital and banking services,
the development of credit unions is crucially important (see Drakeford
and Gregory (2008a) for ways in which social workers can engage with
credit unions; and Drakeford and Gregory (2008b) for an account of the
diversification of Welsh credit unions). Without this, ‘empowering’
service users may do little more than raise unrealisable expectations.
A community approach that addresses practical and material problems
can also, of course, help relieve the psycho-social effects of persistent
poverty (Ferguson and Woodward, 2009).

The experience of being involved in the instigation and running of a credit
union can be empowering—see Ledwith’s (2005) account of Hattersley
(Greater Manchester, UK) Credit Union’s development and efforts to
build links with credit unions in Northern Ireland. In this sense, COSW,

Poverty and Social Work 2385

which actively supports such initiatives, can address one of the key features
of poverty as defined in Voices of the Poor in which ‘poor men and women
very often express a sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, humiliation, and
marginalization’ (Narayan, 2000, p. 32). It would be a mistake to assume
poor people in the affluent ‘first world’ do not face similar problems.
A study of some of the ‘poorest and most socially excluded people’ in
London, for example, found that more than half experienced welfare
services as ‘unhelpful, unapproachable, complicated to use or even
untrustworthy’ (ATD Fourth World, 2008, p. 4). This relates to Strier and
Binyamin’s (2009) argument for the development of anti-oppressive social
services for the poor in which ‘poverty may be defined as a system of domi-
nation’ (p. 3). Social workers’ participation in, and support for, the develop-
ment of credit unions for deprived communities can be seen as one example
of such an approach that dovetails well with COSW, as both involve:

‘. . . grass-roots social development, active participation, underscoring a
structural analysis of the problem, consciousness raising and social action
. . . allow[ing] for the emergence of meaningful and vibrant community set-
tings (Karabanow, 2004, quoted in Strier and Binyamin, 2009, p. 5).

(ii) COSW is local

At first sight, the statement ‘COSW is local’ appears tautological but ‘local’,
in this context, tends to imply a ‘patch’ approach to social work—the indi-
vidual practitioner is responsible for service users living within a delineated
area and, indeed, may be expected to reside in that same area. This allows
practitioners to develop a close sensitivity to community life and, even-
tually, to be much more accepted by local people. The writings of Bob
Holman about his life and work in Easterhouse, Glasgow, the largest
public housing estate in Europe, contain many vivid examples of how
workers who live within their community can utilise this sensitivity in
their practice (for example, see Holman (1999) for an account of seven indi-
viduals’ experiences of poverty). In a similar vein, the late Jeremy Brent’s
(2009) community youth work on the Southmead estate in Bristol provides
many insights into the opportunities enjoyed and difficulties faced by the
‘outsider within’. Of course, ‘living on the patch’ does bring its own chal-
lenges. An awareness of key players in the community, of vested interests
and illicit businesses can be uncomfortable for practitioners. Physical con-
ditions on poor urban estates can be especially difficult and workers may
feel vulnerable because of a lack of security: for example, burglars may
have ready access to terraced houses because of their poorly built attic
walls. More rural areas can also be demanding for practitioners and in
countries that have many different languages, living and working in one’s
patch requires a fluency in the particular language spoken locally—
Maritz and Coughlan (2004) raise this issue in regard to COSW in rural
parts of South Africa.

2386 Greg Mantle and Dave Backwith

The increasing interest in rural health and social care in the UK (Asthana
et al., 2003) and internationally (Pugh and Cheers, 2009) has also high-
lighted the importance of social workers adopting a community approach.
Hadley and Leidy (1996) presented findings from a case study of Tioga
County Human Services Agency (TCHSA). Tioga is a small rural county
in Pennsylvania, covering about 1,000 square miles and having a population
of only about 41,000 people. Nevertheless, the County is very poor and has
many social problems. At the time of writing, TCHSA continues to boast an
integrated, local and highly effective service. Interestingly, the norm is for
practitioners to live locally:

Your new casemanager isn’t a stranger to your community. With our Patch
system, our staff are assigned caseloads in the area where they live. Patch
casemanagers work with your local schools, churches and area organizations
to help build community support networks for you and your family
(TCHSA, 2002).

A further aspect of ‘local’ is that new needs can be identified and new ser-
vices developed to address them. The initial efforts of charities and volun-
tary agencies can subsequently be provided by the state and if COSW
practitioners are involved at an early stage, it is possible that such formal
provision will be instigated more expediently. ‘Community needs profiling’
has a long history within UK community work (Ledwith, 2005) and has
been proposed as a way for social work agencies and practitioners to
become more aware of local needs and thereby prepare the ground for com-
bating poverty (Green, 2000).

As well as providing base-line data about the extent and nature of
poverty in a locality, Green (2000) argues that community needs profiles
can also make social workers better informed about the processes that
create and maintain poverty at both local and national levels. Here, for
instance, the theoretical links between income deprivation, ill health and
low educational achievement can be enhanced by local knowledge about
how they play out in a specific community and practice can be adapted
accordingly. Green also argues that community profiling can inform a struc-
tural or critical approach to social work at structural, organisational and
inter-actional levels. This is akin to Strier and Binyamin’s (2009) model
of anti-oppressive social services (mentioned earlier) in that both would
seek to ‘challenge some of the assumptions, attitudes and stereotypical
beliefs about poor families often held by individual social workers and
social work agencies’ (Green, 2000, pp. 294 – 5).

(iii) COSW is preventive

An association with ‘prevention’ is easy to understand. Having a commu-
nity focus suggests an interest in general, predisposing factors affecting
groups—sometimes large groups—of individuals, families and households.

Poverty and Social Work 2387

COSW practitioners would be expected to utilise their local knowledge
relating to such factors and to particularly vulnerable individuals and
families to good effect. Prevention is often presented as an alternative to
intervention, especially ‘crisis intervention’ (Stepney, 2006, p. 1300). On
the other hand, prevention can still be regarded as a form of intervention,
albeit at a different, ‘non-individual’ level, thereby retaining the need for
(urgent) action. ‘Prevention’ retains the interest of government (Depart-
ment of Health, 2006) and researchers—as an example, Morris et al.
(2009) critically examine approaches to prevention, focusing on the
nature and outcomes of partnership strategies in relation to combating
the social exclusion of poor children and families. Nevertheless, the
meaning of prevention is often tacitly assumed rather than closely
defined. Biehal (2008, p. 459) usefully distinguishes between ‘truly
preventive services which identify need and offer help at an earlier stage
to those . . . offering help to families experiencing acute stress’. In other
words, we have to be clear what is to be prevented. Interestingly, while
Biehal’s quasi-experimental study of young people referred to specialist
family support teams compared with those receiving mainstream social
work found little difference in effectiveness, ‘an ecological approach to
addressing the multiple risk factors in young people’s lives’ (Biehal, 2008,
p. 458) was found to be an important generic factor in achieving successful
outcomes. This affords a measure of (tentative) support for COSW, given
its association with the wider environment.

In relation to poverty, preventing it is clearly better than dealing with
its effects, for everyone concerned. Perhaps, the most straightforward
way that this could be achieved would be the establishment of local
credit and saving facilities to serve disadvantaged communities. Social
workers might usefully play a part in campaigning for this and in helping
to organise it. It would be naive to claim that credit unions can prevent
poverty but they can be preventive in the sense of alleviating ‘the chronic
conditions of persistent poverty and responding to the acute difficulties
which occur when faced with the sudden demands of a utility bill or unex-
pected need to purchase an essential household item’ (Drakeford and
Gregory, 2008a, p. 146). Moreover, as Drakeford and Gregory go on to
argue, by working to build communal, mutual relations, social work of
this type can also be empowering by encouraging service users ‘to help
themselves through long-term participation’ (Drakeford and Gregory,
2008a, p. 146).

(iv) COSW involves partnership

Our case-managers are cross-trained and can provide services in the areas of
mental health, mental retardation, children and youth and drug and alcohol.
You and your family will have just one case-manager, no matter how many
services you need (TCHSA, 2002).

2388 Greg Mantle and Dave Backwith

Ensuring the effective integration of services is an essential aspect of part-
nership (Morris, 2008) and one that COSW practitioners would be expected
to push for. However, in the UK, central government has adopted a less
than coherent approach to encouraging integration: after many years of
trying to ‘join-up’ health and social care, its recent decision to separate
adult social care from children and family services has received a mixed
response (Bochel et al., 2009).

The involvement of service users and carers has also come to be widely
accepted in social work. There is research evidence, albeit limited, to
suggest that involving service users is associated with more effective
COSW. For instance, from research with a range of UK service users,
Postle and Beresford (2007) have recently concluded that ‘community-
based social work . . . can support people to participate in emerging forms
of active and inclusive citizenship’ (p. 143) and that ‘By engaging in this
activity, social workers are helping people to participate in active citizen-
ship . . . which contrasts sharply with consumerist models of involvement
and participation’ (pp. 115 – 16).

In regards to poverty, it is important to acknowledge the difficulties
service users and carers may experience in partnership because they are
poor and, in the same breath, the difficulties that professionals may have,
in this context, because they are relatively well-off.

COSW in other countries

The contention that social work should be actively engaged in the relief of
poverty is international, as is the notion that it has largely failed in this role.
Maritz and Coughlan (2004), for example, while citing the government’s
commitment to community development and expectation that social work
will contribute to its anti-poverty programmes, write that:

Poverty is the single most important social issue facing South Africa
because it is so inextricably linked with all the other problems such as
crime, unemployment and HIV. South African social work has been repeat-
edly accused of failing the country’s people . . . critically because it has not
acted as an advocate for the poor . . . there is an increasing demand to
develop strategies that will promote community development . . . (Maritz
and Coughlan, 2004, p. 28).

Countries that do tackle poverty, in part, through COSW should be of inter-
est to social work in the UK. However, given the widely varying histories
and manifestations of ‘social work’ across different countries, it can safely
be predicted that interpretations of COSW will be similarly legion. So,
attempting to ‘compare’ COSW in Cuba, for example, with what is meant
and taking place in England is no simple task (Backwith and Mantle,
2009). To illustrate this point, Strug (2006) presents contemporary social
work in the West as essentially ‘non-community-oriented’, instead

Poverty and Social Work 2389

highlighting its individualism. COSW in England is, at best, relegated to the
sidelines although, in response to Strug, it is possible to point to the work
undertaken by the non-state sector, particularly its path-finding of new
approaches. A community approach also appears more likely to be fol-
lowed in parts of the UK. Heenan (2004), for example, has charted the
relationship between community development and social work in Northern
Ireland and, perhaps, there is some more general linkage with ‘troubles’ in
the sense that fiercely divided ‘communities’ are more obviously in need of
community-oriented intervention than are more settled populations. As a
further example, Itzhaky and Dekel (2008) report on community interven-
tion in Israel ‘in times of terror’. More generally, there may be special, if
short-lived, opportunities for COSW when political environments are
fluid or uncertain (for example, see Wong’s (1990) account of social work
in Hong Kong).

Social work is fast strengthening its international base. There is more
public scrutiny of and debate about social work in different countries
that is helpful in regard to understanding the various manifestations of
COSW. Initiatives such as International Doctoral Studies in Social
Work (INDOSOW, 2009) promote an international approach to doctoral
social work research and education. Ferguson and Lavalette (2007)
present case studies from countries including India, South Africa and
Nicaragua and call for a review of social activism in social work. They
argue that while neo-liberal globalisation has been accompanied by the
emergence of social work in many poor countries, Western social work
is in crisis because of the ascendancy of market-based approaches.
This is an important contextualising debate for understanding, for
example, Cuban social work, given the country’s post-revolutionary,
anti-capitalist tradition. It is fair to say, however, that the literature
addressing social work in Cuba remains sparse. Dominelli’s (2008)
review of an anthology by Swedish and Cuban authors (Mansson and
Proveyer Cervantes, 2005) includes the following account of her visits
to Cuba:

. . . I have found some impressive examples of practice . . . where social
workers and health practitioners hold multiple roles and often join together
to challenge the [Communist] party’s proposals and empower people acces-
sing their services to ensure that . . . they get what they need in extremely
difficult circumstances . . . (Dominelli, 2008, p. 269).

This suggests that conflict with central government does occur and that it
can be effective, providing an important insight into the nature of COSW
in Cuba and raising questions and challenges for COSW in increasingly
authoritarian regimes such as the UK. However, having outlined some
key characteristics of COSW and aspects of its international context, we
now discuss its application to anti-poverty work.

2390 Greg Mantle and Dave Backwith

Poverty-focused COSW: margin to mainstream

A number of ways to bring COSW into the mainstream of social services
have been suggested and there is much that can be learned from ‘joined-up’
projects such as TCHSA. In search of integration, Goldsworthy’s (2002)
model—empowering casework, community building and social action—
seeks to overcome the perceived barriers between COSW and traditional
casework approaches:

Casework and community development have been seen by many human
services professionals as rivals for too long, with competing philosophical
underpinnings and goals. Reinforcing this false dichotomy between a
conservative casework and a radical community development is convenient,
but incongruous with the realities of practice, and moreover, has been to the
detriment of disadvantaged communities (Goldsworthy, 2002, p. 327).

Goldsworthy draws on her experiences of working for ‘UnitingCare
Sunshine Mission’ (UCSM), a small church agency in Victoria, Australia,
to detail some of the ways in which this integration of approaches
can be achieved in practice. She describes the three types of work under-
taken at UCSM. First, a structural approach to casework (Mullaly, 1997)
is followed, allowing the discussion of wider issues affecting the individual’s
experiences and opportunities for people to become involved in confront-
ing them. Second, community building includes power sharing with
service users, involving them in the agency—mainly through volunteer-
ing—and in its decision-making processes. Finally, social action takes
place at local, state and federal levels and includes ‘campaigning for
needle exchange facilities, highlighting the lack of affordable housing,
and improving the local council’s involvement in Aboriginal reconciliation’
(Mullaly, 1997, p. 333).

The need for more and better training about COSW has been widely
recognised. In terms of educating practitioners, there may be more room
for gloom than might be expected. Weiss and Gal’s (2007) survey of
social workers in Israel, for instance, found that social workers ‘ascribed
greater importance to psychological causes of poverty than other middle-
class professionals’ (Weiss and Gal, 2007, p. 906). The authors attribute
this finding, in part, to the influence of the US social work model on training
and practice in Israel. Maritz and Coughlan’s (2004) attitudinal survey of
social work students in South Africa found that although students under-
stood the need for community development, few would choose to practise
in this way. This attitude towards COSW was largely shaped by the stu-
dents’ feeling of being ‘overwhelmed’ by the sheer enormity of the task
of poverty alleviation. However, Maritz and Coughlan argue that practice
learning opportunities need to be much more structured and students
better prepared. An emphasis on income generation is commended, in
order for students to empower service users economically (Maritz and

Poverty and Social Work 2391

Coughlan, 2004, p. 35). This links closely with strategies to combat financial
exclusion, including the avoidance of sub-prime lenders through the estab-
lishment of credit unions. Community-oriented social workers would need
to draw from a sound knowledge base on how credit unions can be set up
and sustained, including ways of moving beyond reliance on government
subsidy (Goth et al., 2006). In an Australian context, Mendes (2009) calls
for: first, better integration of community development with social work
theory and practice; and, second, more opportunity for students to practise
community skills in the real world. In using the example of the development
of credit unions in a deprived community in Wales to highlight the potential
for a social work contribution to community enterprise, Drakeford and
Hudson (1993) point out that financial and economic gains are complemen-
ted by social ones: people gain skills, knowledge and confidence and social
interaction—‘community cohesion’ in the current parlance, increases.
Nonetheless, practitioners should bear in mind that micro-finance is not a
panacea for poverty, nor are its effects always positive (Dichter and
Harper, 2007).

Unemployment is, of course, a major determinant of poverty. Iversen
(2001) argues that a reformulated ‘occupational social work’ in the USA
can have lessons for social workers in other countries (and vice versa),
especially as the unemployment-related social consequences of economic
globalisation are widely shared. This would involve social workers, in
multiple roles, working at different levels, ranging from assessment and
referral to social activism. To illustrate the community aspect of this,
Iversen (2001) cites examples from Europe, Africa and Latin America in
which social workers ‘could initiate community programs aimed at expand-
ing human and social capital . . . [building] collaborative connections
between residents, businesses and community groups [which] would be
mutually beneficial’ (Iversen, 2001, p. 334). The social activism of
lobbying for policy changes, such as job creation programmes, is clearly
complementary to this.

In countries like the UK, where practice has traditionally been domi-
nated by casework, adopting a community orientation is likely to bring
practitioners to the attention of their managers and employers. Neverthe-
less, social workers should not attempt to play ‘neutral’ because in so
doing, they allow the status quo to continue unchallenged (see ‘false neu-
trality’, Wilding, 1982). There is another reason for avoiding neutrality
and this is one of self-preservation, as social work may itself be at risk.
The UK probation service, which traditionally provided ‘social
work-with-offenders’, has already been seriously weakened. The New
Labour government has overseen the end of community-focused
approaches in the probation service (Mantle and Moore, 2004; Mantle,
2006). Probation officers have become increasingly ‘office-bound’, spend-
ing much of their time on the risk assessment of individual offenders and
related paperwork, with little sense of the wider picture.

2392 Greg Mantle and Dave Backwith

There is an ethical dilemma for social workers in that having accountabil-
ity to both service users and agency implies that social workers may find
themselves at odds with their employer. This is an uncomfortable place
to be, especially in a society like the UK, where the power of employers
continues to grow as the influence of trade unions and professional associ-
ations ebbs. Not having a job usually means poverty for those, including
social workers, who have only their labour to sell. Should we therefore
expect state social workers to put their jobs on the line? This is an ethical
issue for all of us on the radical edge of social work and politics more gen-
erally. It is also an issue that bears heavily upon attempts to move COSW


In order to tackle poverty, social workers will engage with and mobilise col-
lective action within poor communities. They will look for ways to reduce
financial exclusion and help poor people avoid sub-prime lenders,
through the establishment of credit unions. They will play a vital part in
maximising opportunities for the development of asset-based welfare
schemes in local communities (Gregory and Drakeford, 2006). Close con-
nection with the community is the way to ensure targeted, effective inter-
vention and, for this, social work must be community-oriented.

While it is important to recognise that not all types of COSW are appro-
priate for alleviating poverty, a common theme in the literature is that
social workers need to work at different levels, combining different social
work skills and methods. The key features of Iversen’s reformulated occu-
pational social work described above bear comparison with Goldsworthy’s
(2002) integrated modes of practice: empowering casework, community
building and social action. Similarly, in a discussion of the development
of community networks in a US city, Morrison et al. (1997) conclude that
‘true generalist practitioners are needed’ and, thus, that ‘differentiation in
traditional social work roles of case worker, group worker and community
organizer are not functional’ (Morrison et al., 1997, p. 533). Strier and
Binyamin’s (2009) argument for an anti-oppressive approach in social
work with people living in poverty also includes multi-level and multi-
method approaches.

While distinguishing clearly between palliative, preventive and transfor-
mative goals of social work with poor people, Strier and Benyamin (2009)
argue that ‘anti-oppressive social services’ should also be transformative, to
mutual benefit:

. . . such an approach may help social workers and clients counter the effects
of powerful institutional forces that are undermining the ethical basis of
these services, and provide an organisational platform for the common
empowerment of workers and clients (Strier and Benyamin, 2009, p. 13).

Poverty and Social Work 2393

This is most timely in the current economically tough climate. In their call
for social workers to engage with credit unions, Drakeford and Gregory
(2008a) take a similar stance:

A critically engaged social work, which aims to rediscover and reanimate
the radical impulse which has always formed one strand in its history . . . is
a precondition for the sort of practice we have advocated here (Drakeford
and Gregory, 2008a, p. 148).

In the UK, there may be signs that radical social work could be experiencing
something of a revival (see Ferguson and Woodward, 2009). On the other
hand, whatever the outcome of the pending general election, times may
be even more challenging for social work. Nonetheless, the argument for
a radical, anti-poverty-focused COSW is far from abstract. As the
example of credit unions shows, not only can such an approach promote
community cohesion and social capital, but it can also provide direct prac-
tical assistance to people who have no savings and have no option but to
seek credit from loan sharks. It is, then, as Drakeford and Gregory
(2008a, p. 148) put it, ‘intensely practical’.


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M i c h a l Krumer-Nevo
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

I d i t W e i s s – G a l
Tel Aviv University

M e n a c h e m Monnickendam
Bar-lian University

Despite the profound commitment of social work toward people living in

poverty, the social work profession has failed to develop practice based on

awareness of poverty. This article shows the ways in which poverty became a

marginal issue in social work practice, reviews the literature on teaching pover-

ty in intemafional context, and then explicates the expected educational results

and the main course and fieldwork contents. The proposed framework for

poverty-aware social work education includes knowledge acquisition, structur-

ing of professional values, skills development, and experiencing. A considera-

tion of the ways in which this content may be integrated into the existing social

work curriculum concludes this article.

FROM ITS INCEPTION at the end of the 19th cen-

tury the social work profession has voiced a

long-term commitment to dealing with the

problem of poverty. The professional ethical

codes of the United States (National Asso-

ciation of Social Workers [NASW], 1999) and

Great Britain (British Association of Social

Workers [BASW], 1996) as well as the profes-

sion’s self-definition as expressed by the

International Federation of Social Workers

(Hare, 2004) include unequivocal statements

regarding the role of social work in the allevi-

ation of poverty in addition to a specific com-

mitment to aid those living in poverty.

In accordance with this commitment, there

have been numerous pleas to place particvdar

emphasis on the issue of poverty within the

framework of social work training programs in

the United States (Council on Social Work

Education [CSWE], 2002), Great Britain (Green,

2000), Scotland (Ferry & Watson, 2001), South

Asia (Cox, Gamlath, & Pawar, 1997), Eastern

Europe (Landau, Guttman, & Talyigas, 1998),

South Africa (Gray & Mazibuko, 2002; Ntusi,

1998), and Canada (Larochelle & Campfens,

1992). These attempts may be a consequence

of social work scholars’ concerns in the face of

rising poverty rates in different countries and

Journal of Social Work Education, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Spring/Summer).
Copyright © 2009, Council on Social Work Education, inc. All rights roserved. 225


the concurrent strengtherung of neoconserva-
tive social policy (Doron, 2001; Jones &
Novak, 1993; Pierson, 2001).

Despite these appeals, existing social
work education programs address problems
of poverty and social exclusion in an extraor-
dinarily superficial manner. A recent examina-
tion of the curriculum of the graduate pro-
grams at the top 50 schools of social work in
the United States found that a mere 12 schools
offered one or more courses in the field of
poverty, and overall 15 courses existed on the
topic (Harding, Ferguson, & Radey, 2005). In
Israel, Guttmann and Cohen (1992), who
examined bachelor of social work (BSW) pro-
grams in the early 1990s found that the topic
of poverty was hardly dealt with. Similarly,
Davis and Wainwright (2005), addressing the
training for Diploma in Social Work in Britain,
criticized the tendency to avoid tackling the
issue of poverty in the curriculum and
claimed that, in essence, such evasion indi-
cates estrangement from the inherent values
of the profession.

Moreover, lecturers who wish to teach the
topic of poverty, and parficularly practice
with people living in poverty, find that the
existing literature does not offer a comprehen-
sive discussion of the issue. What are to be the
goals of teaching poverty to social workers?
What should be the contents of such a pro-
gram? These questions are left without
answers. This article strives to fill this knowl-
edge gap by presenting a conceptual frame-
work for the teaching of poverty in social
work programs. Given the variety in the spe-
cific socioeconomic and political contexts in
various countries and of the requirements for
professional social work certification (in Israel

and Britain a BSW degree is the only qualifica-
tion required, in the United States a master’s
of social work (MSW) degree is required)
(Spiro, Sherer, Korin-Langer, & Weiss, 1997;
Weiss & Welboume, 2007), we conceptualize
the framework in terms broad enough to
serve various specific settings of social work
programs. As such, we hope that adaptations
of this framework will be of value for educa-
tors seeking to develop and to strengthen the
teaching of poverty within both BSW and
MSW curricula.

The article is divided into five sections.
The first section presents the ways by which
poverty is converted into a rather vague,
almost marginal, factor in social work practice
and attempts to explain this phenomenon.
The second section briefly reviews current
trends in social work literature regarding
poverty and focuses on the literature address-
ing the teaching of poverty in social work pro-
grams. These two sections provide the foun-
dation for the development of the conceptual
framework to be presented in the following
three sections. The third section delineates the
desired end and intermediate results of train-
ing. The fourth section specifically focuses on
the main contents and themes of the program,
and the fifth section outlines the means by
which the proposed contents may be integrat-
ed into the course of study.

Blurring the Subject of Poverty in
Sociai Worit Practice

Throughout the world, people living in pover-
ty compose a major segment of social work-
ers’ clients (Healy, 2001; Hokenstad, Khin-
duka, & Midgley, 1992). Although “poverty”
may not be their overt problem, Waldegrave


(2005) claims it is often the reason that clients
turn to or are referred to social services.
Despite this phenomenon, research indicates
that working with people living in poverty is
a significantly less popular career choice than
working with other populations for social
work students in a number of countries,
including the United States and Israel (Limb
& Organista, 2003; Perry, 2001; Weiss, 2005,
Weiss, Gal, & Cnaan, 2004).

Moreover, those who do work with popu-
lations living in poverty often do not adopt a
“poverty-aware approach” (Davis & Wain-
wright, 2005). Davis and Wainwright argue
that social workers in Britain do not deem
poverty to be a central factor affecting other
hardships and do not focus on its mitigation.
Similar criticism was voiced by Waldegrave
(2005), who claims that personal social serv-
ices in the United States are not suitable to the
needs of families living in poverty, because
they base their assessment on intrapsychic or
family factors and fail to take into account
socioeconomic and cultural factors such as
unemployment or inadequate housing. Sim-
ilar blurring of poverty exists also in Israel
and is evident in the official definitions of pro-
fessional specialties described by the Israeli
Council of Social Work, in the discourse clas-
sifying social service clients as well as in the
discourse defining intervention’s goals. The
Coimcil of Social Work in Israel defines nine
areas of specialization (health, rehabilitation,
probation, work with communities, women,
the elderly, families, children and youth, and
mental health), none of which focuses on
working with people living in poverty.
Moreover, the discourse regarding clients’
classifications is based on individual or famil-

ial pathologies (“people with addiction” or
“people with mental illness,” for example),
whereas an equivalent definition that identi-
fies poverty as a problem area does not exist.
In a parallel fashion, it would appear that
everyday interventions are not founded on
the imderstanding that poverty is a predomi-
nant cause of distress nor is the mitigation of
poverty regarded as a goal of intervention in a
similar way to “the alleviation of couple vio-
lence” or “improving parental functioning,”

The flight of social work practice from the
centrality of poverty stands in contrast to its
centrality in the perspective of people living
in poverty. Research comparing social work-
ers’ perceptions about their clients’ sources of
distress and the clients’ own perceptions
found that whereas the professionals believed
that the core of existing problems were psy-
chological and cognitive defects or functional-
behavioral difficulties, the clients considered
their economic distress as the root cause of
their other problems (Krumer-Nevo, Slonim-
Nevo, & Hirshenzon-Segev, 2006).

Several explanations are offered for the
negation of poverty in social work practice.
One such explanation is derived from the
“normalization” of poverty in social work
practice. Because such a large segment of
social work clients live in poverty, poverty
becomes “normal” or “natural,” and is there-
fore considered as belonging only to the con-
text and not, in itself, as the problem (Jones,
2002; Walker & Walker, 2002). Another expla-
nation is that social workers do not consider
the supplying of material assistance to be
“real” or “professional” social work (Kninver-
Nevo & Lev-Wiesel, 2005). Furthermore, the
strengthening of conservative or New Right


ideologies during the last three decades in dif-

ferent coimtries led to a shift in policy dis-

course from structural problems to problems

of individuals Qones & Novak, 1993; Katz,

1989). This discourse has encouraged individ-

ual methods of practice rather than social jus-

tice practice (Davis & Wainwright, 2005).

Teaching Poverty: Literature Review

Reviewing social work literature on poverty,
one can recognize a tendency to criticize the
functional and individualistic models of social
work practice that perceive poverty as the
result of individual or family problems and
propose an alternative model that perceives
poverty as a structural phenomenon (Rank,
2005) and a violation of human rights (Craig,
2002; Davis & Wainwright, 2005; Dowling,
1999; Lister, 1998; Lyons, 1992). This approach
puts poverty in a broader context of exclusion,
discrimination, and inequality. Instead of
focusing on how poverty creates behavioral or
emotional pathologies (such as substance
abuse or the abuse of children), this approach
focuses on the violation of rights connected
with the material aspects of poverty (such as
the right to housing, education, employment,
or health) and the relational-symbolic aspects
of poverty (such as the right to respect, the
right for “voice,” and to full citizenship)
(Lister, 2004).

Social work practice, it is claimed, should
replace the functionalist or system-based the-
ories that dominate social work training with
theories of conflict, similar to those guiding
radical social work (Goroff, 1978; Keithly &
Rombough, 2004). Scholars call for a change
from traditional individual or family treat-

ment to community work and development
(Green, 2000), community and political
activism (Billups & Julia, 1991; Lord &
Kennedy, 1992), systematic work that inte-
grates intervention from the individual level
to the global socioeconomic level (Vosler &
Nair, 1993; Witkin, 1998), advocacy (Dowling,
1999), empowerment, networking, activist
research (Gray & Mazibuko, 2002; Keithly &
Rombough, 2004), policy practice (Ntusi,
1998), and partnerships founded on the partic-
ipation of clients in the process of defining the
intervention (Rosenfeld, 1993) and in the
process of social change (Rosenfeld & Tardieu,
2000; Lister, 1998).

These recommendations focus on trans-
formations in professional practice. However,
there is no discussion of the means by which
to integrate these changes into social work
curricula. A literature survey on the teaching
of poverty in social work foimd very few arti-
cles that offered guidelines and general rec-
ommendations regarding specific content of a
professional training curriculum. For exam-
ple, Tully, Nadel, and Lesser (2005) emphasize
the importance of economics-related study to
forge an understanding of the effects of eco-
nomic characteristics on social problems, in
general, and on poverty, in particular. Others
(Mary, 1997; Sewpaul, 2001) emphasize the
need to understand the local and national eco-
nomic processes that affect and are affected by
globalization, such as the creation of new pop-
ulations that are exposed to poverty, the ways
to cope with poverty on the individual and
family levels, and the modes of battling
poverty. Similarly, others recommend arming
social work students with knowledge about


the history of poverty and its mitigation
(McLaughlin, 2005). In addition, there is a
need to study the expressions of poverty and
its causes, and in particular, to concentrate on
the experience of the lack of power in relation
to human rights and to emphasize methods of
community work to overcome this experience
(Lyons, 1992).

In addition to these recommendations, the
literature addresses the need for training pro-
grams to include an examination of the per-
sonal attitudes of the students about poverty
and people living in poverty. Faver, Cavazos,
and Trachte (2005) emphasize the need to
understand the students’ beliefs as well as
their community and cultural values to pro-
mote a commitment to economic and social
justice. The emphasis here is on strengthening
structural analysis in lieu of individual expla-
nations regarding the causes of poverty
(Gasker & Vafeas, 2003; Perry, 2003; Weiss,
2006). Others point to the need to counter stu-
dents’ fatalistic perspective that poverty is
insurmountable through a social justice-based
curriculum (Gasker & Vafeas, 2003).

Likewise, it was recommended that dur-
ing their training, students should undergo a
participatory poverty experience. For exam-
ple, during a period of 2 weeks, students
would have to manage with a sum of money
equivalent to that of those receiving food
stamps or, alternatively, would have to under-
go the experience of those applying for wel-
fare assistance for the first üme (Harding et
al., 2005).

Only one article provides a conceptual
framework for social work trairüng on prac-
tice with people living in poverty. It describes

a module for a postgraduate (MSW) program
that includes frontal teaching, small group
work, and class meetings with activists in
local projects that fight poverty (Davis &
Wainwright, 2005). This program is divided
into three segments: The first focuses on
poverty and social security, and in this frame-
work the students learn about the social secu-
rity system. The second section focuses on
social work and social exclusion, and the third
addresses methods of combating poverty. The
arficle’s major contribufion is that it coins the
t e r m poverty-aware social work practice, a n d

thus defines the goal of social work education
regarding poverty. Our proposed framework
is constructed as a continuafion and further
elaboration of this goal and the ways to
achieve it through an integration of theorefical
knowledge, exploraüon of values and skills,
and acquisition of practical knowledge.

The Desired Training Resuits

We define the end result of teaching poverty
as the development of social workers who (a)
adopt a stand that opposes the existence of
poverty and inequality in their work with and
on behalf of people living in poverty; and (b)
are able to provide “good enough” services to
people in poverty based on the understanding
of the centrality of poverty in people’s lives
and of the ways in which poverty, and its
intersection with gender, age, disability, eth-
nicity and race, affects diverse situations of
distress that may have behavioral and emo-
tional expressions. These end results are in
line with the profession’s values as well as
with the knowledge and professional trends
derived from the literature review.


To reach these end results, we defined
four intermediate results:

1. Students will possess theoretical and

empirical knowledge about poverty—its

causes; expressions in everyday Hfe; its

effects and consequences; the experiences

entailed in poverty; the ways to extricate

oneself from poverty; and the combating of

poverty on both the policy level and the

individual, family, and community levels.

2. The students will identify and be aware,
through a process of self-reflection, of
their personal and cultural values regard-
ing poverty, especially to avoid othering,
that is, the perception of people living in
poverty as having certain traits that dra-
matically differ from the traits of other
members of society (a discussion of oth-
ering and its consequences is to be found
in Lister, 2004; Krumer-Nevo, 2002).

3. The students will become acquainted
with evidence-based as well as innovative
practice with people living in poverty,
their basic assumptions, the values they
hold, and the specific strategies and
methods that they use.

4. The students will experience working
with people living in poverty on the indi-
vidual, family, community, and policy
practice levels.

It is important to note that we consider
the first and second results to be interrelated.
In other words, it is not our purpose that cer-
tain lessons be dedicated exclusively to the
acquisition of theoretical knowledge and oth-
ers to the examination of personal values and
attitudes. In our opinion, for students to trans-

form theoretical knowledge into practical
knowledge, they need to examine the mean-
ings of various poverty-related theories in
regard to their personal and cultural values,
that is, the examination of their emotional
reactions in addition to their cognitive reac-
tions to learned theories. Such examination is
equally essential to the acquisition of formal
knowledge. As described by Bullock (1995),
empirical data alone does not necessarily
undermine ideological and value-based
beliefs. Therefore, for example, we recom-
mend that students discuss questions such as
“How does what I learn conform with what I
feel/think about people in poverty?” or “In
what way does the taught theory provide me
with a better understanding of my personal

Presenting the results in this section as if
the first (the acquisition of knowledge) pre-
cedes the second (the examination of values
and standpoints) is for clarity only. However,
these two objectives taken together precede
the acquisition of the two other results. The
following section presents the main themes of
the proposed educational framework: The
acquisition of theoretical knowledge, develop-
ment of self-reflection, the acquisition of prac-
tical knowledge, and the acquiring of practical

The Main Themes of the Proposed
Educational Frameworit

The Acquisition of Theoretical

The first intermediate result is the acquisition
of theoretical knowledge and especially of the
ability to approach this knowledge critically.


that is, the ability to divide a theory into its
components, to assess the practice implica-
tions of a theory, and to evaluate it (Marie &
Robert, 1997).

The theoretical knowledge recommended
includes (a) current poverty theories and
approaches deriving from a variety of disci-
plines; (b) social and economic policy regard-
ing poverty, its history, alternative models,
and ramificafions; and (c) theorefical knowl-
edge regarding the manifestaüons of poverty
and of social policy on the everyday lives of
people in poverty. This body of knowledge
will derive from various disciplines, and spe-
cial attention will be given to the learning of
the perspective of those actually living in

To gain a critical standpoint regarding
poverty theories, students will learn explicitly
the differences between (a) conservative,
individual-based explanations of poverty that
associate poverty with individual behavioral
or moral pathologies of the people, for exam-
ple, as explained by Murray (1994) and (b) the
structural analysis of the socioeconomic sys-
tem (Rank, 2005; Wilson, 1987), which associ-
ates poverty with social phenomena such as
limited employment opportimifies; the capi-
talist market economy; globalization; immi-
gration, war, and political instability; and sys-
temafic discriminafion based on race, ethnici-
ty, religion, or gender (Alcock, 1997; Lister,

In addifion, students will acquire knowl-
edge about social policy in relafion to poverty.
This knowledge will include methods offered
by various ideological perspectives (e.g.,
social democracy, neoliberalism, the Third
Way, neo-Marxism, feminism) to cope with

poverty (Alcock, 1997; George & Wilding,
1994), the historical development of poverty-
focused policies, the ways of defining and
measuring poverty, and the means that gov-
ernments in different countries undertake to
cope with poverty. These themes will be stud-
ied both in the international context and in the
specific nafional context.

During the study program the correlation
among etiological theories, ideologies and
their policies, and practice-related ramifica-
tions will be examined. In other words, the
students will be able to identify how specific
directions in policy and practice modes are
correlated with theories, on the one hand, and
ideologies, on the other. For instance, they will
understand how conservative theories and a
conservative political climate correlate with
specific policies such as reducfions in benefits
for single mothers that occurred in Israel dur-
ing the last few years (see Achdut, 2005).
Similarly, students will examine the various
approaches to social work pracfice with peo-
ple in poverty and recognize the link of these
approaches to specific ideologies and theories.
For example, with respect to children who are
considered “at-risk” (a definition that is more
often attributed to children in poverty) there
are two approaches. One advocates the re-
moval of children from their homes, and thus
decontextualizes parents’ behaviors and sepa-
rates such behaviors from the conditions of
poverty, bad housing, unemployment, and
poor access to community resources. The
other approach emphasizes the right of the
child to her family and focuses on the need to
develop community services to assist the fam-
ilies (Ronen & Klein, 2007; Slonim-Nevo &
Lander, 2004). It is very common to test such


approaches in terms of their immediate effec-
tiveness for the child, but we point to the need
to examine to what extent each approach
takes into account the implications of poverty
on everyday life and on the at-risk behavior.
In other words, we stress the importance of
equipping students with theoretical knowl-
edge that will allow them to examine, in
depth, the basic presumptions that form the
foundation for development of various
approaches of policy and practice.

The third content area involves knowl-
edge acquisition regarding the manifestations
of poverty in everyday life and its conse-
quences on both those that experience it and
on society in its entirety. The emphasis here is
on the understanding of poverty within the
context of inequality and exclusion and not in
the limited context of psychopathology-based
theory. Therefore, students will gain empiri-
cally based knowledge about the effect of
poverty on the earning of a high school
matriculation certificate; on the nutritional
state of those living in poverty; and on the link
between poverty and housing, health, person-
al/community security, and active participa-
tion in civic life. Thus, students will be able to
identify poverty’s long reach and will learn to
see poverty as a central instigator of various
types of distress. Such a view will allow them
to identify poverty’s role in the creation of
behaviors and conditions such as crime,
parental failure, illness, and so forth.

In studying the themes reviewed, it is
important to keep in mind two principles: the
multidisciplinary nature of the body of
knowledge regarding poverty and the uiüque
contribution of the perspective of people in
poverty to this body of knowledge. Regarding

the first principle, students will acquire multi-
disciplinary knowledge drawn from fields
such as anthropology, sociology, psychology,
social policy, educafion, law, and gender stud-
ies to gain a comprehensive understanding of
the many ways in which inequality, marginal-
ization, and exclusion impose and are
imposed on by various life aspects (see Loury,
2001). For instance, ethnographers describe
aspects of kinship of women living in poverty
(Stack, 1974). Sociologists illustrate ecological-
ly related aspects of poverty such as the influ-
ence of unemployment and of public policy
on marriage in poor communifies (Edin &
Kefalas, 2005; Wilson, 1987,1997) or the finan-
cial realifies of single mothers and their strate-
gies to make ends meet (Edin & Lein, 1997).
Educational scholars emphasize aspects of
poverty within the educafional system. For
example, they describe the experience of par-
ents living in poverty with relafion to the
schools where their children study (Bloom,
2001). Feminists point to the feminization of
poverty (Abramovitz, 1995; Pearce, 1978) and
explain how mulfiple marginalizafion based
on gender, class, ethnicity, sexual preference,
and so forth are intertwined (Krumer-Nevo,
2006). Legal scholars demonstrate how status-
related inequality is manifested even in the
jusfice system, which is the formal epitome of
equality (Elbashàn, 2004; White, 1991; Ziv,
2004, 2005).

Regarding the second principle, we
emphasize the importance of studying poverty
through the perspecfive of those living in
poverty. The knowledge of people UvLng in
poverty, referred to as “life knowledge”
(Krumer-Nevo, 2005), includes their perspec-
fives, interpretations, meanings, hypotheses.


analyses, and theories (Beresford, 2000). This
knowledge includes reference to the experience
of poverty, to the meariings of poverty and to
the actions taken by people in poverty in their
everyday struggles and their strategies to
attempt to extricate themselves from its grip.

The perspective of people in poverty is
crucial for several reasons: Observing poverty
from the perspective of the people themselves
helps students see specitic behavior not as
merely basic survival or adaptation to the
poverty’s conditions, but rather as the experi-
ence of resisting poverty (Lister, 2004, chapter
6; Krumer-Nevo, 2006). In addition, the knowl-
edge of people living in poverty enables stu-
dents to criticize social structure and institu-
tions “from the margins” and to recognize the
marginalized position of people in poverty in
society. For example, when we ask people liv-
ing in poverty for their opinions, viewpoints,
and suggestions about social services such as
the educational, welfare, or housing systems,
the failures of these systems are exposed
including their structural unsuitability to care
for the people who most need them (Krumer-
Nevo, 2003c, 2006; Krumer-Nevo & Barak,
2007). Moreover, acquaintance with the knowl-
edge of people in poverty allows students not
orüy a better understanding of the nature of
poverty, but also enables the creation of
partnership-based relationship. Such under-
standing enables students to recognize the
power, resources, and agency of people living
in poverty and thus contributes to combating
preconceived notions regarding people in
poverty as “Others.”

The study of the described themes from
various disciplines and relating to the knowl-
edge of people with direct experience of

poverty will enable the students to obtain a
more complete picture that reflects the com-
plexity of life in poverty. More specifically,
this integrative knowledge wül allow stu-
dents to connect between the suffering of the
individual living in poverty and social prob-
lems common to large groups of people. In
addition, it will allow students to understand
that poverty, rather than caused by economic
lacking and manifesting itself mainly through
pathological behaviors, is connected to poor
access to social resources and opportimities,
lack of social rights, and lack of symbolic cap-
ital that are manifested in stigma, a lack of
voice and discrimination (Lister, 2004).

Development of Self-Reflection to
Avoid Othering

The second intermediate result is the develop-
ment of the students’ abilities to recognize
their own attitudes and ideologies relating to
people in poverty through self-reflection
(Parsloe, 1990).

The importance of this goal is enhanced in
research literature that examines pubUc stand-
points toward poverty and their cormection to
policy, oppression, and discrimination (Bul-
lock, 1995; Groskind, 1994). Bullock (1995)
asserts that the middle class perceive people in
poverty through stereotypes and prejudices.
Often, the middle class believe that women
living in poverty bear children to increase their
benefits, or that men do not want to work
because they enjoy self-deprecation. These
perceptions are discriminatory and oppressive
because they create othering (Lister, 2004;
Krumer-Nevo, 2002), a concrete and symbolic
gap between those living in poverty (choosing
the “immoral path”) and the rest of the popu-


lation (choosing the “moral path”) (Bullock,
1995). Thus, adopting a view that is opposed
to othering is a prerequisite to creating part-
nership with people in poverty.

As described earlier, the literature deals
with the issue of attitudes toward people in
poverty by recommending the increasing of
students’ understanding of the structural
explanations for poverty instead of individu-
alized explanations. However, our experience
indicates that even students who understand
the importance of structural factors in the cre-
afion and preservafion of poverty have diffi-
culties in “translating” their general analysis
of the causes of poverty into an analysis of real
clients’ situafions. For instance, when present-
ed with the case of a single mother, who does
not participate in the labor market but rather
relies on welfare benefits to provide for her
children, often students will understand her
behavior, first of all with respect to inherent
weaknesses in the woman’s personality or ego
(“she isn’t willing to try hard enough” or “she
lacks energy”), distorted values (“she doesn’t
understand the importance of work”), or with
respect to her moral weakness (“she takes
advantage of the welfare system”). The stu-
dents have difficulty comprehending how her
employment status is affected by issues such
as childcare during work hours, available
modes of transportafion enabling travel to
and from work, and confidence in her ability
to obtain suitable employment.

BuUock (1995) explains the public’s diffi-
culty in understanding the significance of
poverty by her asserfion that the experience of
life bound in poverty challenges the accepted
beliefs such as the existence of free will (“every-

one does what she wants and diooses”), per-
sonal responsibility (“she needs to take respon-
sibility and go to work/take better care of her
children/leave her abusive husband”), and the
view that the world is run in a just manner. To
allow students to address such beliefs, they
must leam to see how, in certain cases, poverty
is created from situations that do not involve
free choice, for example, “the choice” to perse-
vere in studies when the family is in dire need
of a wage earner, or “the choice” not to marry
yoimg when a girl has no place to live, and how
difficult it is to examine individual responsibili-
ty when socioeconomic situations Umit choices
and opportunifies in an extreme way.

Coping with such topics in the educafion-
al framework presents many challenges. The
power of personal and cultural attitudes
derived from their “neutrality,” which denies
the ideological components that are concealed
within them. Furthermore, the tendency of
students to place blame on the decisions,
choices, and preferences of those living in
poverty prevents them from facing the anxi-
efies associated with the thought that the
world does not funcfion according to the
principles of jusfice, and that the ability of
the individual to determine her way in life,
parficularly in the presence of inequality, is
extremely limited (Rainwater, 1970). Nonethe-
less, this is the challenge that pedagogy and
training must meet, through providing stu-
dents with opportunifies to comprehend their
personal and social privilege, to examine their
own life experiences, to express their individ-
ual and professional ideological standpoints,
and to examine the correlafion between the!m
and between policies and pracfice.


To allow students to examine their beliefs
and attitudes, the classroom atmosphere
should be open to different viewpoints and
various pedagogical strategies such as discus-
sions (see Quigley, 2003, pp. 33-36 for an
example), simulations of poverty and inequal-
ity (Wernet, 2003, describes such an example),
and the writing of personal diaries. Another
way to challenge individual attitudes and
beliefs regarding poverty involves the direct
exposure of students to the reality of living in
poverty, perhaps even through residing with-
in poverty-stricken neighborhoods and joint
action with the people. In this regard it is
worth mentioning the training program
founded by ATD Fourth World Movement for
social workers (ATD Fourth World, 2005).
Within this framework, students and people
living in poverty jointly participated in a
series of discussions and developed a social
work training program. In this way, students
had the chance to see their previous stereo-
types and prejudices in a new way.

As previously mentioned, we also recom-
mend that students examine their emotional
reactions to the learned theories by asking
themselves the types of emotions that a specif-
ic theory arouse in them and how the theory
merges with their general life perspectives.

The Acquisition of Practical

The realm of macro- and microlevel practice
with people living in poverty is rich and
dynamic. It is particularly important that stu-
dents become acquainted with different prac-
tices within the professional realm of govern-
mental or municipal social services as well as

outside the established social work field, for
example, within civil society orgamzafions.

Students will become acquainted with
effecfive programs in their local context as
well as in other contexts. They will examine
the programs’ radonale, their assumpfions,
and the implemented methods and skills.
They will also identify the working principles
and guidelines of these programs, such as
partnership, empowerment, and holisfic mod-
els (Krumer-Nevo, 2003a; Schorr & Schorr,
1988; Shamai & Sharlin, 1996; Suartez,
Smokowski & Wodarski, 1996).

The rapid development of civil society
organizations during the last decade has pre-
sented a variety of models for working with
people living in poverty. For instance, in
Israel, within the framework of Yedid— T̂he
Association for Community Empowerment
(; Itach—
Women Lawyers for Social Justice (http://;
Community Advocacy/Genesis (Torezyner,
2001); in the United States, Beyond Welfare
(Bloom & Kilgore, 2003); and internationally,
the ATD Fourth World Movement (ATD
Fourth Worid, 1995, 2004; Rosenfeld & Tar-
dieu, 2000). These organizations developed
innovafive models that integrate advocacy
with the providing of individual legal coun-
seling, group and commuruty projects based
on empowerment, partnership, and the real-
ization of rights as well as activities aimed at
changing policy. These practice modes have
similar characterisfics to those used in the
welfare services, yet they also possess unique
traits. For example, a woman whose electri-
city was disconnected as a result of lack of


payment would be afforded, by the welfare

services, assistance to communicate with the

electric company, to work out a payment plan,

and perhaps to plan the family budget. In con-

trast, rights-focused organizations would

bring together a number of women in similar

situafions whose goals would include sup-

port, empowerment, and social acfion. As a

group, the women would acquire an under-

standing about the sources of their inability to

pay the bills, and as a group, they would

approach the electric company, the media, or

even the court system to prevent the cessafion

of electrical supply to families who are not

able to afford it.

In addifion, students will critically assess

the welfare service’s organizafional system. In

other words, students will understand how

the social and organizafional context in which

they work affects intervenfion methods and

occasionally effects the alleviafion of poverty

and social marginalizafion.

The Acquiring of Practical Experience

Two principals wiU guide this secfion of the
program: (a) fieldwork wül integrate micro
and macro social work pracfice with and
behalf of people living in poverty and (b)
fieldwork experiences will adopt a “covenant
of help” perspecfive (Krumer-Nevo, 2003b) in
accordance with the principles of partnership
and reciprocity (Rosenfeld, 1993).

Regarding the first principal, students
will gain pracfical experience in working both
in the social services and with organizahons
for social change. Thus, they will acquire skills
needed for the integrafion of various levels of
work—from the individual to the policy level.

A special emphasis will be placed on the
involvement of students in policy pracfice
including the integration of working to
change individuals’ situatiors with work to
change policy (Jansson, 2003). More specifical-
ly, students will acquire the tools, skills, and
experience necessary to combine microlevel
practice (e.g., reaching out, mediation, indi-
vidual advocacy, partnership, providing sup-
port, raising social awareness) with macrolev-
el pracfice (e.g., social advocacy, community
organizafion, social acfion, coalifion buuding
with social organizafions, policy practice). For
an example of such an approach recently
implemented in Israel see Kaufman, 2005.

This integrafive work will be based on
deep-rooted partnerships and reciprocity with
people in poverty in what is referred to as a
“covenant of help” relafion (Krumer-Nevo,
2003b). According to this perspecfive, social
workers are allies of people in poverty. They
reject the exclusivity of the role of the profes-
sional as one who knows better and share this
role with those living in poverty, who conse-
quently are awarded the status of “knowers.”
Adopting this perspecfive will enable social
workers to acknowledge their clients’ struggle
against poverty and to join them “where they
are.” It also emphasizes the joint creafion of
goals and methods of achieving effecfive
intervenfion and social change.

Integrating the Proposed Framework
into Sociai Worit Curricuia

Three strategies for integrating the proposed
framework in the curricula are recommended.
Each strategy can be implemented individual-
ly or together, according to the specific context


of the respecfive social work school. The first
strategy is to integrate substantive study
about poverty within existing coursework
aimed at the general student populafion; the
second is to develop specific courses on the
topic of poverty geared toward the general
student populafion; and the third strategy is
to develop uiüque concentrafioris on the topic
of poverty for students specializing in the

We see great importance in the integra-
fion of substanfive study about poverty with-
in existing coursework from the introductory
to advanced levels. For example, such integra-
fion would involve social policy courses as
well as those addressing generic approaches
to social work pracfice and courses specifical-
ly focusing on individual, family, or commu-
nity interventions and policy practice. In
regard to pracfice-related courses, students
will learn skills such as reaching out, the
establishment of a relafionship in the context
of social status disparifies, or models and
methods founded on partnership, individual
advocacy, and the reaUzafion of rights. In
addition, content should include policy
change pracfice embracing status-related and
organizafional advocacy and their tacfics.

The development of courses dedicated to
the topic of poverty would include topics that
are not dealt with in the more general courses
such as policy and pracfice courses. In addi-
fion, we recommend the development of a
concentrafion on the poverty track that wiU be
directed to students intending to specialize in
this field. Such a concentrafion will enhance
poverty awareness and will create scholars
who will lead the field, and it will continue to

generate social work knowledge about pover-

ty and about working with people in poverty.


This arficle presents a conceptual framework
for educafion and training in the field of pover-
ty and social work. Our purpose is to develop
a framework that wül be broad enough to serve
as a platform for local adaptafions according to
the specific needs and characterisfics of various
social work programs.

The proposed conceptual framework
emphasizes the integration of theoretical
knowledge, self-refiecfion, pracfical knowl-
edge, and field training. The framework is
based on a mulfidisciplinary approach and on
the acknowledgment of the contribution
made by the knowledge of people living in
poverty. The program also emphasizes the
integrafion of micro- and macrolevel pracfice,
and especially of policy pracfice.

Although we do not address specific edu-
cafional techniques to be applied in the class-
room, such techniques may be elaborated on
in a future arficle. Nevertheless, we believe
that this current arficle will contribute to the
increased integrafion of the topic of poverty
within social work curricula on a global level.


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Accepted 0 4 / 0 8

Michal Krumer-Nevo is senior lecturer and director of the israeii Center for Qualitative Research of
People and Society, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Idit Weiss-Gal is senior lecturer, Tel Aviv
University. Menachem Monnickendam is senior lecturer and director of graduate studies, Bar-Han

Address correspondence to Michal Krumer-Nevo, Spitzer Department of Social WorK P.O. Box 653, Beer-
Sheva, Israel 84105, Israel; e-mail: [email protected]

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