Stripping the Wallpaper of Practice: Empowering Social Workers to Tackle Poverty

Claire McCartan, Aine Morrison, Lisa Bunting, Gavin Davidson, Jackie McIlroy

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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The relationship between deprivation and health and educational inequalities has been well evidenced in the literature. Recent UK research has now established a similar social gradient in child welfare interventions (Bywaters et al., 2018) with children living in the most deprived areas in the UK facing a much higher chance of being placed on the child protection register or in out-of-home care. There is an emerging narrative that poverty has become the wallpaper of practice, “too big to tackle and too familiar to notice” (Morris et al., 2018) and invisible amid lack of public support and political will to increase welfare spending. This paper will examine poverty-related inequalities and how these affect families. It will discuss the importance of recognising that poverty is a social justice issue and a core task for social work and outline the range of supports that may be available for families to help lift them out of poverty. Finally, it will describe the development of a new practice framework for social work in Northern Ireland that challenges social workers to embed anti-poverty approaches in their practice. The framework emphasises that poverty is a social justice issue, seeks to provide practical support and guidance to re-focus attention, debate and action on poverty in times of global economic uncertainty and give social workers the tools to make it central to their practice once again. It reinforces the need for social workers to understand and acknowledge the impact of poverty; and to advocate for and support those most in need. It aims to challenge and empower professionals to tackle poverty and inequality as an aspect of ethical and effective practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number193
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2018


  • poverty
  • child protection
  • child welfare
  • Inequalities
  • public welfare
  • public assistance
  • income support


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