There are many definitions of poverty. Poverty can be culturally specific. What may be defined as living in poverty in one culture may be different in another. Poverty can be defined as a lack of basic resources such as money to pay bills buy food etc. In Australia there are many different communities, families and individuals who experience lack of access to resources on a daily basis .Poverty is a major issue for social workers. This essay will explore poverty in relationship to the ageing community and how this is influenced by the current political environment in Australia.
A well-developed understanding of poverty is essential for social workers as understanding poverty and what defines poverty will assist in working with individual’s in an anti-oppressive practice.
Porter and Trezise state that there are two theories of poverty, one which places the responsibility of being poor with the individuals themselves and the other theory which views poverty as a social problem that has been produced and reproduced by structural forces in society.
Porter and Trezise state ‘The poverty debate is thus essentially and unavoidably political ….The poverty debate resolves into a contest between two main theoretical approaches. One emphasises individual choice and responsibility, drawing to attention the roles of moral character and motivation in determining and individuals soci-economic status. The second theoretical approach high lights broader social and economic structures. This structural approach explores the class and economic processes that limit and anticipate the opportunities open to individuals and the choices they can make. Porter & Trezise (p 36 2006)
How an individual defines poverty will define the way in which they practice as a social worker .If a social worker adopts theory one and sees poverty as the individuals reasonability then this is what they will focus on for example getting them into paid employment . If an individual sees poverty as a structural constraint then they will focus on the broader picture such as affordable housing, access to resources etc... As a social worker who wishes to practice in an anti-oppressive manner I see poverty as a result of social and economic structures.
In examining the issues of the aged and poverty it has to be explored that often retirement is not necessarily a voluntary action.’ There are some underlying reasons for the high levels of early retirement and these can include
* An increased uptake of the Disability Support Pension over the last decade , particularly by men which has facilitated early retirement for people with limited skills and recognising the high injury risks in manual labour * Negative perceptions of the capacity of older workers by employers can limit the employment opportunities for mature workers * Retrenchment from a job is a factor in early retirement as mature workers can have difficulty finding new employment, This is particularly a risk if the retrenchment is from an industry that is experiencing transition and where there may be opportintuirs for workers to find similar positions. Brotherhood St Lawrence ( p12 2007)
Ringen(1978) explores that establishing that income is low is not sufficient to prove that poverty exists. “To ascertain poverty we need to identify directly the consequences we normally expect to follow from low income …. We need to establish not only that people live as if they were poor but that they do so because they do not have the means to avoid it .This approach puts the primary emphasis on showing that the living conditions actually experienced are unacceptably low and thus poverty exists rather than assuming that poverty is the inevitable consequence of having a low income. Sanders (p5, 2011)
The Australian Council of Social Services defines poverty as a relative concept used to describe the people in a...
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