understanding of poverty and its impact on service-users is essential for
social workers to be able to act in an empowering, anti-oppressive way. Our
actions are often influenced by our attitudes.
This qualitative study aims to identify the attitudes and causal
attributions of poverty amongst social work students to provide a baseline
indicator that might inform poverty education within SHU’s social work courses.
To date, no UK investigations of this nature have been undertaken recently,
leaving us with a profound lack of understanding of the knowledge and attitudes
of student social workers toward poverty and its impact on people in the UK.
The study design is multi-method, incorporating two data sources: an on-line questionnaire (43 responses) and
individual telephone interviews (6). Findings revealed that students enrolled
on a BA Social Work degree were generally compassionate towards those experiencing
poverty. They preferred structural causal explanations rather than individual;
students also strongly held the government responsible and saw poverty as
something impacted by political choices. However, poverty was understood to be
absolute rather than relatively defined and a trend towards dissociating from
and ‘othering’ those in poverty was discerned. The study recommends the
inclusion of poverty-awareness in the values and ethics element of social work
courses, to enable it to be incorporated into students’ anti-oppressive