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An introduction to social work in Wales
An introduction to social work in Wales

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1 The social context of service users

Figure 1 People on a pedestrian crossing © Brasil2/

As well as needing to understand and relate to people using social services as unique individuals, social workers also need to have an appreciation of the impact of broader social factors on service users’ lives. Social workers work with some of the most marginalised groups in society, who may experience poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. Without an understanding of how and why society is divided in ways that individuals have little control over, it would be easy to adopt a stance that blames individuals for circumstances that are not of their choosing. Poverty and social class have long been acknowledged as major factors in determining people’s life chances, and the recurrent themes of ‘language, rurality, equalities and poverty’ ultimately impact on the everyday lives of service users and carers (Williams, 2011, p. xiii) in Wales and elsewhere. Social workers therefore need to actively engage with these issues if they are to work effectively with the citizens of Wales in seeking ways in which they can make a real difference to people’s lives.