Associate feature: The key to addressing poverty is people
Poverty isn’t a choice. We’re born or knocked into it, and in general society still expects us to climb out of it with hands tied behind our backs.
Schools struggle to manage children’s complex needs, and other support for families is thin on the ground. We risk high-cost, sometimes poor quality home because of unreliable employment. Adversity creates conditions for trauma, the consequences of which resonate through a lifetime.
For some it means no lifetime at all. In September Aberlour published new research showing that people from our most deprived communities are almost three times more likely to die before they reach their 25th birthday, compared with their least deprived peers.
In Scotland we boast an ambitious programme for addressing poverty. Economic and employment initiatives are supported by free childcare. Legislation compels planning and action. All political parties have bold commitments around housing and homelessness.
But while policy, planning and investment might clear the paths out of poverty, they will not de-liver change alone. The golden thread which brings all the components together is human relationships. Its people that make stuff happen, not ‘systems’ or ‘the state’. Addressing poverty is about working alongside people, valuing existing strengths and harnessing those to the massive task at hand. And within that effort, social workers are critical agents for change.
If the key to addressing poverty is people, our priority must be to ensure we have the right people in place. Properly empowered and valued, social work has the skills and tools to break negative cycles and strengthen positive ones. By getting alongside people and communities for as long as it takes, we can untie their hands and help them find their own path out of poverty together.
Ben Farrugia is Director of Social Work Scotland
This piece was sponsored by Social Work Scotland