Social Workers' Roles in Helping the Poor


Social workers help people suffering from substance abuse, domestic violence and poverty, among other unfortunate situations. Many of the people with whom social workers deal are poor. They might be unemployed or underemployed, or they might be in such deep debt that even a decent job doesn’t allow them to live a normal life. The social worker takes on several roles when helping poor people survive and plan for the future. This can be on the individual level or in a more general capacity.

Investigate Causes of Poverty

  • On a broad scale, social workers take on the role of investigator. Social workers look into the overall causes of poverty for people in general and the reasons for a high concentration of poor people in a given area, according to the National Association of Social Workers website. They identify the root causes and then work to make changes that will allow the people to improve their situations.

    There is no single way to stop poverty from happening, so the effort requires work on many levels to make gradual improvements. Social workers can specialize in one of these roles, such as investigating ways to increase jobs in an area or fighting against social factors that discourage people from bettering themselves such as drug problems in certain communities. Some social workers lobby Congress to raise minimum wage amounts.

Community Organizing

  • It’s no secret that some neighborhoods are wealthy and some are poor. Social workers can become community organizers in poor communities and utilize the neighborhood’s resources to improve the quality of life. This might include supporting the local health care system, improving school programs and helping to organize ways for people to make more money.

    A good social worker develops community programs that encourage residents to take control of their lives. The social worker can put together the right people with the right skills to become leaders in the community to get new projects going. This puts the people in a leadership role they may not be used to having. It encourages positive attitudes and empowers the poor people of the community.

Helping the Poor Develop a Plan

  • On an individual basis, social workers make immediate differences in lives. The social worker meets with a poor individual to understand the person’s specific problems and immediate needs. With this understanding, the social worker helps the individual plan for his future by directing him toward social programs and suggesting courses of action.

    This includes setting a person up with job training, assisting with placement, getting a pregnant woman prenatal care at a clinic, obtaining subsidized housing and other life-changing help for poor people. Social workers help to construct a life plan so that people can get back on their feet.

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