L50080 Social Work

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Social Work


Poverty is a condition of human life in which the affected person or the affected community lacks the financial resources to maintain the minimum standard of life, a standard which is accepted by the society as a whole. Poverty is multidimensional and includes other elements or aspects like political, social and economic. Although the issue measuring poverty is different in different countries. However, the person affected by poverty faces several hardships in life that range from sustaining the everyday life. Although there are several reasons for the increased incidence of poverty on the people of worldwide (Belfield et al. 2014). However, the poverty can be alleviated effectively if the state is able to promote the social welfare for the poor people. This report deals with how the social policies and attitudes developed from the 19th century to the present day.

1. Historical perspective of poverty

It is not an easy job to trace the origin of social welfare in Britain. There is wide range of controversy related to the foundation of the social welfare in Britain. Most of the commentators conform to the fact that the term “welfare state: started with the onset of modern welfare state in Britain in the year 1945. However, the origin of the welfare state can be traced back as early as 1349 with the formulation of Medieval poor law. The idea of welfare state or social welfare started well during the time when the early civilizations existed on this earth. The charitable and voluntary help was provided by the individuals, religious organization as well as the state (Reynolds 2016). The Poor Law was framed with the motive of tackling poverty and reducing poverty among the poor by providing the necessary help. The poor sick and elderly people that used to get the help were termed as Paupers. The main drawback or the criticism that the Poor Law used to attract was that the law emphasized on the maintenance of the order rather than proving relief to the poor people. The chief question that was in the minds of the people was that, whether the law was framed for the compassion of the poor people or for bringing a the poor within the grasp of law and preventing them from committing any unlawful activity. However, in the year 1834, the poor law got amended as New Poor Law and this law is regarded as the beginning of new poor laws. Under the new Poor Law, the poor people who were good enough to work were allowed to stay in a workhouse, where they can stay in return of work and tasks. There was an initial plan of building different workhouses for accommodating the children, elderly and women but later the plan was dropped, and a mixed workhouse was built to accommodate all the paupers. Later in the 1830’s and 1840’s several cases of neglect and abuse surfaced from the workhouses. Even though the workhouses were not prisons, still the poor people who used to stay inside the workhouses were called inmates. In the 1800’s a sense of charity for the needy and poor developed and this led to the build-up of a charity organization society. This society worked in complementary to the poor law. Along with the poor law, the social work or social welfare began in Britain with the advent of settlement movement and charity organization (Koengeter and Schroeer 2013).

2. Social welfare reforms

The secondary data collected from a survey conducted by from year 1983 to 2011 reflected on the views and attitudes towards the social welfare reforms and welfare recipients. Welfare spending for the poor has lost the support over the past three decades. The decline in the support is especially seen within the supporters of labour party and within the youth that are aged from 18 to 34. This is pretty confusing because the labour party from the past has been a clear supporter for the social welfare and spending on the same. While the support within the youth has declined because of the fear that they might lose jobs during the period of recession. The graph below depicts that reduction in support for the social welfare reforms and welfare of the poor.

                               social welfare reforms

Figure 1: Graph shows the views of the people of whether the government must spend for the welfare of the poor [source: (Blogs.lse.ac.uk, 2017)]

                                welfare of the poor

Figure 2: Graph shows the percentage of people belonging from different age group which agree that the government must spend for the social welfare and welfare for the poor, from year 1987-2011 [source: (Blogs.lse.ac.uk, 2017)]

The views on reasons due to which poverty occurs has remained stable over the years. However, the rationale that why a person is poor is placed on the person itself. The same views are reflected along the people of all ages, in all political parties and even among the authors. The decline in support for the social welfare reforms majorly belong to the labour party or are supporters of the labour party (Blogs.lse.ac.uk, 2017).

Primary data is also collected through randomized interviews among people of all ages ranging from 18 to 68. The interviews were based on the views and the attitudes of the people on the social welfare reforms. The data are collected from random 100 people through interviews. The data reflected that 80 percent of the people are in favour of the social welfare. However, a majority of these people support that the circumstances under which a person receives the welfare benefits, should be reduced. 75 percent of the people were in not support of cutting the welfare reforms, they even mentioned that would be happy to see increased spending on the part of the government for the poor people. 61 percent even freely expressed that welfare support should be extended to the disabled poor and aged people that are not in a condition to earn their own livelihood. Another instance where some interesting facts came out is the spending of the government on the unemployed people should be reduced. This particular response is supported by 45% of the people, while 60% of the people think that duration of proving welfare benefits to the unemployed should be reduced as well.

3.1 Concepts of need, absolute poverty and relative poverty

Need can be defined as the minimum things that an individual require to lead a healthy life. Need is different from want because if the need a person is not fulfilled then he or she can suffer from deficiencies and may even lead to death. The basic needs for a person ranges from water, food, clothing and shelter. However, want can be defined as aspirations, wishes and dreams of a person. The basic needs along with the protection from environmental hazards are the basic requirements for a human to live. The other needs of a human being are: psychological needs, safety needs, belonging and love needs, esteem needs, self-authorization needs. Among all the needs the psychological needs get the most of the preference and value (Schmid 2014). These include food, shelter and clothing and without these basic things, it will be difficult for an individual to live. Safety needs lays emphasis on the physical needs of a person and when it gets fulfilled, the security needs also gets settled. Safety needs also includes financial security, personal security and health. Esteem needs includes both the self-esteem and self-respect. Self- esteem is a normal desire for a human so that he or she can feel valued and accepted. Thus, a person needs to be socially active so that he or she can gain recognition and also sense of contribution towards the society. Self-actualization needs are the needs of a person that help the person to realize his or her full potential. This needs emphasize on the fact that each and every person is different and they have different motive in their life. Thus, the person must self-analyze himself or herself first to gain the understanding of what he or she wants to achieve in life (Doak et al. 2015).

Relative poverty- it is condition in which people affected with poverty do not have the minimum levels of money or income to maintain a decent standard of living in the society from which the person belongs. Relative poverty is considered as the most convenient way to quantify the levels of poverty in any country. Relative poverty is dependent on the members of the society, that is why the measurements differs for different countries. It is an established fact that people are considered to be poor if cannot stay at par with the standard of living as determined by the society. Relative poverty changes from time to time. When the income of a person and the wealth of a society increases, then the minimum standard of living tends to change as well (Pritchard and Wallace 2015).

The causes of relative poverty have several dimensions like- unemployment, education, poor health, inability to access the affordable services. The rate of unemployment has increased due to the changing present day scenarios and unstable global economies. The lack of jobs hinders a person to fulfil his basic needs and thus leads a life filled with misery and poverty. The less educated a person is the more the chances of being unemployed, which enhances the tendency of a person to remain in poverty. Poor health can even occur to people belonging from higher strata of society. However, if poor health is associated with people who are already living in poverty then the situation might be deteriorate later. People that are affected by poverty suffer from the mental and physical illness and the cycle goes on if they are not intervened. At the same time, poor health even deteriorates the condition of the impoverished communities because it reduces the capabilities of the person that live in such communities. Health care services, affordable transportation, affordable services effectively increase the working ability as well as standard of living of the poor people. However, lack of these basic services create a gap which hinders a person wellbeing and proper development (Fritzell et al. 2015).

Absolute poverty- this is a poverty condition in which the affected individual do not have the minimum income which is required to satisfy the minimum requirements to lead the daily life. These basic necessities are: Food, safe drinking water, health, sanitation facilities, shelter, education, information, and service access. The people that suffer from the absolute poverty exhibit certain characteristics (Bergh and Nilsson 2014). The characteristics are

  • adults that have a BMI of 17 or below are considered to be living in absolute poverty.
  • Taking 30 minutes or above to collect water from the water resources (streams and rivers)
  • The complete lack of access to any kind of sanitation facilities.
  • The absence of any kind of health care, prenatal care, treatment for fatal illness and immunizations.
  • Kids living in rooms that have more than four people, adults living in a room that have more than 3 people and also adults and kids living in rooms that have no floors.
  • The children that are at the school age, do not have access to school or do not go to school and are not able to read and write.
  • The absence of any kind of access to media which includes television, radio and computer.
  • Lack of any kind of access to the health services and schools.

The causes of absolute include increase in world population, natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis, conflict, child labour and debt (Blaikie et al. 2014).

3.2 Impact of limited resources

Limited resources can be described as a situation which includes constrained natural resources, human resources, energy resources and financial resources. All these resources if found to be in a limited condition within a country then it will obviously impact the both the decision making and the setting priorities. Especially if the economy of the country is facing issues like inflation and recession then it affects not only the wealthy and the poor people, but it also affects the State’s ability to set priorities (Hills 2012). During financial scarcities, depending on the depth of the crisis governments often stop welfare activities for the poor sections of the society. This is done to minimize the pressure on the already constrained financial resources. Government might increase the tax to accrue more money from the general people. This situation is sometimes seen when a country engages in war with another country. Going to war is not an easy business, it costs a lot funds to sustain the ongoing processes in war. Thus, constrained resources change the policies of the governments and it heavily aggravate the situations of the poor.

Scarcity of food is another important issue that haunts every government if the production is not sufficient to sustain the total number of people of a country. During such situations, the priorities of the government change and rely heavily on importing food grains other countries. The prices of the food grains escalate excessively, and the poor people faces the brunt of the problem. In this situation, the governments try either reduce or stop the distribution of food to the poor at the low prices (Sheppard 2013).

4. Post war development of social welfare

The period before the war had seen laws like the Poor Laws and the Reformed Poor Law that laid emphasis on the poor people who were termed as ‘paupers’. These paupers were provided with shelter and food in a workhouse in return of the work. After the second world war, the Attlee government is considered to be the one that brought administrative reforms. It was later known that the force to frame the reforms came from outside the party. The first Act that came after the Attlee government came to power is the 1944 Education Act which introduced the provisions of free compulsory education for all. The next big development in the welfare came as form of National Health Service in the year 1948 (Jones 2016). This set up of a health institution is a big achievement of the labor party. There were several other laws passed by the Labour Government and it included Family Allowances Act 1945, National Insurance Act 1946, National Insurance (industrial injuries) Act 1946, National Health Service Act 1946, Town and country Planning Act 1947, New Towns Act 1947, National Assistance Act 1948, Children Act 1948, Housing Act 1949. The centerpiece of all the acts was the state run insurances. According to the insurance scheme, every worker will contribute a part of their weekly or monthly pay to the insurance scheme. This will help in the buildup of a fund large enough, which will benefit the sick and the other employees that have suffered an injury. The prime idea was to support the employees and their families. The other welfare schemes included maternity grant, marriage grant, death grant and training grant. The key points of these grants are that rich and the poor irrespective receive these benefits. Along with the financial security, there were health securities and care provided by the National Health Service. National health service is a publicly funded healthcare institute and is one of the oldest health care provider (Choices, N.H.S. 2013).


Belfield, C., Cribb, J., Hood, A. and Joyce, R., 2014. Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2014 (No. R96). IFS Reports, Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Bergh, A. and Nilsson, T., 2014. Is globalization reducing absolute poverty?. World Development, 62, pp.42-61.

Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I. and Wisner, B., 2014. At risk: natural hazards, people's vulnerability and disasters. Routledge.

Blogs.lse.ac.uk (2017). Attitudes towards welfare and welfare recipients are hardening | British Politics and Policy at LSE. [online] Blogs.lse.ac.uk. Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/scrounging-off-the-state-hardening-attitudes-toward-welfare-and-its-recipients/ [Accessed 19 Dec. 2017].

Choices, N.H.S., 2013. The NHS in England. NHS choices website. Available at: www. nhs. uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/about/Pages/overview. aspx (accessed on 19 December 2017).

Doak, D.F., Bakker, V.J., Goldstein, B.E. and Hale, B., 2015. What is the future of conservation?. In Protecting the Wild (pp. 27-35). Island Press/Center for Resource Economics.

Fritzell, J., Rehnberg, J., Hertzman, J.B. and Blomgren, J., 2015. Absolute or relative? A comparative analysis of the relationship between poverty and mortality. International journal of public health, 60(1), pp.101-110.

Hills, J., 2012. Getting the measure of fuel poverty: Final Report of the Fuel Poverty Review.

Jones, K., 2016. Education in Britain: 1944 to the present. John Wiley & Sons.

Koengeter, S. and Schroeer, W., 2013. Variations of social pedagogy–explorations of the transnational settlement movement. Education Policy Analysis Archives/Archivos Analíticos de Políticas Educativas, 21.

Pritchard, C. and Wallace, M.S., 2015. Comparing UK and Other Western Countries' Health Expenditure, Relative Poverty and Child Mortality: Are British Children Doubly Disadvantaged?. Children & Society, 29(5), pp.462-472.

Reynolds, M., 2016. Introduction. In Infant Mortality and Working-Class Child Care, 1850–1899 (pp. 1-34). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Schmid, H.B., 2014. Expressing group attitudes: On first person plural authority. Erkenntnis, 79(9), pp.1685-1701.

Sheppard, D.K., 2013. The Growth and Role of UK Financial Institutions, 1880-1966. Routledge.

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