Introducing social work: a starter kit
Introducing social work: a starter kit

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Introducing social work: a starter kit

Session 3: Understanding social divisions and diversity


The allocation of resources and the access to opportunities in society have throughout human history been competitive and contradictory, at times being advantageous to some individuals and groups while being disadvantageous at times to others. Left to itself, this situation does not seem to change very much for the better, but as one of the many agencies designed and motivated to positively address these very familiar ‘human’ dilemmas, social work attempts to intervene proactively wherever possible.

Social work interventions and services are based on the values of social justice, the empowerment and liberation of human potential, and the assumption of universal human rights. However, in their direct work with service users, social workers encounter frequent examples where these socially orientated values and aspirations either go unacknowledged, are avoided, or are deliberately excluded. To prevent becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution, therefore, social workers need a sophisticated understanding and critique of social systems and the forces that shape and sustain both positive and negative patterns of resource allocation and social opportunity. This includes the forces shaped and sustained by legal, political, community and group pressures.

These aspects of what social workers need to know are reflected in the five principal areas of this session:

  1. Poverty
  2. Social exclusion
  3. Social work with communities
  4. Social work and groups
  5. Social work and the law

You will begin by considering poverty.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371