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

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Introducing social work: a starter kit

1.5 The impact of poverty on people’s lives

Some people are more able to withstand the impact of poverty than are others. This can often be linked with individual resilience, enhanced and sustained by informal support networks. But poor housing, poor nutrition, high local crime rates, childcare costs and overcrowding can take their toll on even the most resilient of individuals and families.

Activity 1 Work, work, work

Watch this video where Renée describes the pressures on her working situation. Clearly Renée has many skills and is very resourceful, but her situation appears very fragile.

List some of the risk factors of individual and structural forces that potentially could prove very concerning for Renée. List these risks factors under two headings: ‘Individual’, and ‘Structural’.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1
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Transcript: Video 1


I wouldn't say I'm rich. I wouldn't say I'm well off. So I'll put myself in between-- poor, mediocre. Yeah. [CHUCKLE] Well, financially, for this month, with my bills, my telephone bill has been cut off, because I haven't got the finance to pay it. I've got my gas bill outstanding, at the moment, my electricity bill outstanding.


You have to use your brain, nowadays, to think, how can I pay it out? When can I pay it? Sometimes, people running you down, and you're rushing, going from head to toes to get this money to pay it to people.


I think our family sometimes struggle with bills, but I know that in London there's always someone who is worse off than you.


Child care. Child care is a mortgage. Let Mummy tie your laces, and then you can go. At the moment, for my daughter, I'm paying £115.80 a week for nursery. Due to my work pattern, I also have to get a cab to take my daughter to nursery. I think I'm coming up to £1000. And that's in arrears. You give Mummy a kiss? See you later. [KISS] Be a good girl for Grandma, yeah? And I'm thinking, what do I do? Do I pay for the cab fare, or do I leave my telephone cut off? Every month, I have to make a sacrifice. I get help from the government. A chunk goes out for her nursery fees. A chunk goes out for Tyrone, for after-school club, because the hours how I work. Then I've got to pay for their lunch fees, because I don't get no help with school meals. I don't get no uniform allowance. I have to do that all by myself.


Well, this generation-- it is harder. Very poor is where you have nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. But when you have a little, it's still hard.


Are you Kevin?


No. Are you Andrew?


I have never had my friends come around to my house before. Graham?


No. Are you Harry?


It's just heartbreaking to think about it, because I could have more friends coming around, have more social life, which I don't. It's, like, at a standstill.


Does your person wear a hat?




Then, for the children, their social lives-- their friends don't come here. They'd like to go out and explore. They don't want to be enclosed, you know. So, when I do have that time, or if I have the finance, I do take them out.


For my school trips, we haven't been anywhere, like, gone abroad. Most of the trips that we've been on is free, and the school pays for us.


Three years ago, I took them Woburn Safari Park. Could even be longer. You know, they would like to do more activities, but they do understand it's only Mummy. The money's not there. You have to make do.


--for me to do ballet or dance or something like that. Don't know if we can be able to afford it.


I would like more exciting books. I don't have any of those books that involve something that we're learning in class.


I also think about the future. What's going to happen if they want to go university? Where would I find that surplus of money to pay for them?


I would like to be a lawyer. What I would like to do is give people advice about house rents and all their problems.


My dreams for my children, the foremost is for them to be happy, to be comfortable, have their education, see that they have a good job, and they can go on their merry ways and enjoy their life. That's my dream for my children.

End transcript: Video 1
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It is difficult to absolutely separate the individual influences and risks from the structural influences and risks. However, some possible suggestions are listed here:


  • Risks if there are health problems for the children’s grandmother.
  • Risks if there are health problems for Renée.
  • Possibly having electricity and/or gas disconnected for non-payment.
  • Working patterns for Renee mean that she has to use taxis to take her daughter to nursery, and she is already in arrears for these payments.
  • Restricted social life outside of the family home, for Renee and for the children.


  • Risks of further changes to the benefits system at a societal level, that may have a negative impact for Renee and her children.
  • Risks of increases in nursery charges because of the commercial basis of nursery provision – it’s like ‘a mortgage’.
  • After school clubs are expensive, especially when there is more than one child in a family. These are not included as mainstream provision educationally.
  • Possibly because Renee is working, there is no financial help for school lunches or school uniforms.
  • Lack of additional home-based educational materials such as books, and Renee is also concerned about the funding of longer-term education of her children.
  • The demands on the support services for families living in a large city such as London.

‘Social problems’ such as crime and large prison populations, violence, drug abuse and obesity are more prevalent in societies characterised by high levels of economic inequality.


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