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Health In Relation To Poverty Social Work Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 2125 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The aim of this assignment is to show the relationship between social inequality, health and poverty. Throughout this assignment you will see how social inequality and health has a big impact and influence on poverty. Poverty is linked with many groups which interact with each other. I will go into depth about these groups and their links with poverty throughout my assignment (ie race, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, age). I am going to show you how these insights apply to professional practice in terms of: Challenging social attitudes, working with individuals, working with groups and service provision.

Social inequality relates to how long and how well one lives their life. This is mainly shaped through a persons place in society and their stance built around occupation, education and income. (Graham h: 3) ‘Health is a healthy state of well being which is free from disease’ (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn).

‘Poverty is the state or condition of having little or no money, goods or means of support, condition of being poor, indigence’ (Dictionary.reference.com/browse/poverty).

There are two types of poverty relative poverty and absolute poverty. Absolute poverty is the minimum needed to sustain life. Relative poverty is lack of resources ie money, which people in poverty need to provide them with enough food, clothes, fuel and social inclusion with their friends and local communities. (Blackburn C,)

Social inequality has a big impact on health and contributes to people living in poverty. There are allot of factors which influence a persons life ie: Life expectancy ‘ how long people live and the nature of their jobs ie Professional, managerial/technical, skilled, unskilled and unemployed. Social class ‘ mortality vary by cause of death, infant mortality rate, living on a low income ‘ debt – poor nutritional health ‘ having enough to eat. Poor health ‘ unemployed and people who have never worked are one of the highest groups – also poverty in employment – disability – old age. Other forms of social inequalities are ethnicity and gender especially women through disadvantage and discrimination which are important influences on health. (http://www.Office for national statistics)

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I’m going to look at the main causes of poverty:Unemployment ‘ on social security- living on a low income ‘ debt-homelessness ‘ social class ‘ having enough to eat, Poverty in employment ‘ different groups working for low pay – women ‘ poor health ‘ debt – ethnic minorities ‘ gender inequality. Cost of a Child ‘ nutritional food ‘ clothes ‘ trips ‘ toys, disability and sickness ‘ nutritional food – poor health – on social security, old age ‘ fuel poverty – low income ‘ poor health and nutritional needs. (Oppenheim C: Contents)

Unemployment, Poverty in employment, ethnic minorities and gender inequalities:

In Britain today there are around 3.9 million people seeking work, and around 13.5million people are living below the income thrush hold which is unthinkable. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people in the UK are living in poverty. In Britain around 4.5 million people are getting paid less than ‘7 per hour. (Lecture on poverty, slide 13 power point 1, poverty statistics)

Long term unemployment is divided into 3 main categories:

– Older workers who are nearly ready to reach retirement

– People who are prone to illnesses and are not up to working

– People without skills and qualifications

People who are unemployed live in poverty, they experience hardship and trauma, often some social groups who are unemployed talk about being depressed and ashamed that they are in receipt of benefits. (Oppenheim, C: 56,57)

‘The process of claiming and receiving benefits for unemployed has become increasingly stigmatizing’ (Oppenheim, C:59).

The ethnic group that is most effected by poverty is the Bangladeshis they had the highest poverty levels which appeared to be more severe and long lasting than any other groups. Also rates of sickness and disability are much higher within the Bangladeshis group. (JRF findings 2007)

New patterns are coming to light that there has been a rise in self employment and in part time and low paid work. Many of the jobs on offer however are low pay with few long term employment and statutory rights ie sick pay, holiday pay and entitlement. This creates poverty and stores it for the future. (Oppenheim, C: 59)

Within the Joseph Rowntree Foundations one of his aims is to reduce gender inequalities to create a sustainable care system. Most people at home are cared for by women however as a woman’s financial opportunities increase they will tend not to bear the costs of providing care unaided. ‘To create a sustainable care system, care and carers must be better supported and more highly valued to involve more men in caring and reduce gender inequalities.’ (Joseph Rowntree Foundations 2009)

As you can see from the statistics there is still quite a number of years of difference

between the type of work you do, your life expectancy and also gender.

Class and Food ‘ Although intakes of fat are similar across social groups, minerals and vitamins like fruit and veg are lower amongst manual classes and those receiving benefits and lone parents. (Slide 10 of power point 1 poverty lecture)

Also those groups are experiencing fuel poverty as it has doubled between 2005 and 2007. However an interesting fact has come to light that many of those moving into fuel poverty were not on low income which is a very worrying concern for all members of society, the way to try and tackle fuel poverty is to cut fuel costs or provide help with the cost. (Publications ‘ The NPI Site:2)

Children ‘ According to the JRF Report between 2006-2007 ‘in-work child poverty’ was at an all time high. This is children that live with parents where at least one of them are working and are living below poverty line incomes. (Publications ‘ The NPI site) When parents are living below the poverty line this has a knock on effect on children through cheaper and less nutritional food being provided due to lack of money. Also children miss out on trips, are bought less clothes and toys due to reduced income which their parents earn.

‘Lack of money and other material resources shape both the routines and choices that parents make for their own health and their children’s health.’ (Blackburn, C: Poverty and health: working with families : 136) Disability ‘ People who have a disability are at least two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than someone who isn’t disabled. People who have a disability are more at risk of being in poverty as they experience higher living costs due to extra medication needs, equipment, clothing and bedding depending on their disability. (Oppenheim, C: Poverty the facts: 65)

Old Age ‘ Elderly People are at particular high risk as the government has weakened financial control for some of the poorest pensioners. People who are in well paid jobs normally have private pensions and they also receive a state pension once they reach retirement age. However people in low paid jobs, unemployed and people who have gaps in employment ie mothers are set to experience poverty as they hit retirement age due to inequalities with the labour market. (Oppenheim, C: Poverty the facts: 69)

Outline how you might apply poverty to professional practice in terms of:

Challenging social attitudes

Joseph Rowntree Foundation aims to promote public interest in poverty issues by encouraging public support for abolishing poverty in the UK. (www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/2000-poverty-attitudes-UK.pdf)

Currently the public are a long way from supporting an anti-UK poverty agenda. Allot of people are not aware of the problem and don’t believe it is a key issue within our society. Poverty is sometimes related to and more so associated with international groups, absolute rather than relative poverty. ‘The public feel very wary of offering more help to anyone, in case they are ‘taken for a ride’ by freeloaders.’ (www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/2000-poverty-attitudes-UK.pdf)

Within professional practice challenging social attitudes could be improved through:

Awareness ‘ built on:

Targeted messages and channels of the issue

Appropriate hooks to get attention and gain sympathy

Passionate and authoritative leadership

Trust ‘ built on:

Statistical evidence for the public to see

Real examples of people in poverty, through media channels

Transaction ‘ To tackle the issue, give the public information on:

What is going to be done about the issue?

Who will carry it out?

How can the public help with the issue?

Working with individuals and groups:

Youth Homelessness

Within the UK between 2006-2007 there were 750,000 young people that experienced homelessness. Causes of homelessness amongst young people are mainly that they come from disadvantaged and poverty stricken backgrounds. Many of them have experienced some kind of trauma or have come from troubled backgrounds while growing up, many also experience a breakdown in communication between parents and step-parents.

Once young people are homeless this impacts on almost every aspect of their lives ie education, jobs, welfare, social contact and may result in them taking drugs and getting into trouble with the law. Many young homeless people experience poor health compared to their peers who are not homeless.

Many also experience mental health problems and depression. Throughout the last decade there have been a number of policies set up to address the problem. The policies have paid particular attention to prevention, focusing more so on the 16 to 17yr old groups and care leavers aged 18-20.

Working with Service Users

Over the years there has been a great increase in the cultural shift in the way that authorities and support providers have been responding to youth homelessness.

A consensus discovered that being statutorily homeless was not always the best outcome for young people. A housing options approach developed, while there were still some concerns about gate keeping, the majority felt that new practices had increased service provision.

Over time people still found the homelessness experience stressful, intimidating and often felt like they had no control over the situation. So both young people and agencies requested a widespread provision of dedicated housing officers for young people. Particularly preventative services ie family mediation and ‘earlier per-crisis interventions’ including working with parents. In tackling the problem the JRF report suggests that there is a need for more evidence based on ‘what works’ in addressing homelessness and an ‘evaluation of supported lodgings schemes in particular’. (www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/2000-poverty-attitudes-uk.pdf)


Poverty is far from being abolished if anything it is increasing rapidly and the recession has pushed many families and individuals into poverty even further according to the jrf report. (publications ‘ The NPI Site) Poverty is mainly determined by three factors ‘ access to work, and the failure of government policies to deal with them. Access to work is determined by class, gender and race. If unemployed, people getting a job is not necessarily the answer to their problems if they are going to be receiving a low wage ie lone parents and low income families with children. Social security have failed to pull people out of poverty, often leaving them to cope on minimum incomes. (Oppenheim, C: Poverty the facts: 70) According to the jrf findings on monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2008, from 2002 to now out of 56 indicators 14 improved while 15 worsened and 27 remained steady. (Publications ‘ The NPI Site) This proves that the government have allot to answer for and allot of existing policies need to be reviewed and updated in order to see a major improvement and the abolishment of poverty altogether.


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