Four: Work, exclusion, poverty and social work

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This chapter will explore how the concept of production and work can be applied to social work practice. It will look at how work (or the lack of it) impacts on family life and how this can generate the problems encountered by social workers. It will also explore the relationship between perceived ‘social problems’ and production. The chapter will conclude with an analysis of social work as ‘production’.

A traditional view of family life and work is that the family provides the (usually male) worker with a ‘safe haven’. This is explored in the next section, which looks at how society ‘reproduces itself ’. Our concern here is to show the relevance of theories of work and production for social workers. The sociology may not appear to be immediately relevant; however, it is through understanding the nature of production that we can develop a better understanding of poverty, social exclusion and inequality.

One of the aims of this book is to show how sociological explanations of exclusion and poverty are of relevance to social work practice. Whether or not people ‘work’ the level of their wages, or income, is a significant factor in their social position. The majority of people who use social work services are likely to be poor, either through not working or through being employed in a low- or even minimum-waged job. Jones (2001) argues that poverty is still a major factor for the majority of service users. Theories of production explain that capitalism seeks to drive down wages. Thus, poverty is endemic within the economic system and any understanding of it needs to begin here.

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