Towards a Relational Approach to Poverty in Social Work: Research and Practice Considerations


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Poverty and the poor have been central to social work throughout the profession’s history. Much of the discussion in social work conceptualises poverty as a category that people are assigned to or a condition that they endure. In recent years, there has been a growing interest across the social sciences in a relational approach to poverty, which focuses on the social, economic and political relationships that produce and sustain poverty across class, race and gender lines. While it has received growing attention in academic discussions, the impact of relational poverty analysis is still marginal in the field of social work. This analysis has implications for social workers, who are among those in direct relations with the poor and are charged with the complex task of enhancing their well-being. This article aims to incorporate a relational approach to poverty into social work research and practice. It introduces the main tenets of relational poverty theory and reviews relevant empirical literature on relational poverty. Based on this knowledge, the article outlines and discusses key principles to assist researchers and practitioners in implementing a relational poverty agenda in social work.

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