A Donation from an Award-Winning Social Work Student

On 26 June, the Social Workers Union awarded Omar Mohamed a prize for in the World Social Work Day Essay Assignment Competition. The theme was “Working better together: How do we build stronger relationships between social workers and people using services?”

Omar decided to share the prize money with ATD Fourth World in recognition of activist Tammy Mayes. She had offered him advice while he was writing the essay.  He said, “This assignment would not have been possible without the contributions of Tammy Mayes. Learning from experts by experience is key”.

The two met in February 2020.  Tammy and three other representatives of ATD Fourth World were invited by Omar’s lecturer, Simon Haworth, to speak at the University of Birmingham.

Francesca Crozier-Roche, Shaeda Croft, Charlotte Brown, Tammy Mayes and Diana Skelton at the University of Birmingham.

This is an excerpt from Omar’s essay:

“How can social work claim to have values of social justice, human rights, and equality when service users are blamed for not providing for their children in the context of poverty they are suffering from? Social workers cannot build effective relationships with service users if there is blame directed towards service users when they are victims of harsh political choices and agendas. In order for social workers and service users to work together and have stronger relationships that benefit all parties, social workers must be poverty-aware and tackle social injustices through a macro approach. Social workers must be agents of social change in order to truly advocate for the people they work with, and without this, the relationship between social worker and service user was never truly meaningful.”

Poverty Is Not the Same as Neglect

To read the full essay, please see pages 3-4 of the competition winners leaflet. On reading the essay, Tammy said: “That’s what we’re trying to get across. Just because you live in poverty does not mean you’re neglecting your children. Parents go without so their children have everything they need. They don’t need the latest technology or designer clothes as long as they have a roof over their head. It’s about making sure social workers are poverty-aware instead of blaming the parents. Social workers use food banks against families and that’s wrong.”

In a separate article, writing for Social Work 2020 Covid-19 Magazine, Omar wrote:

“Poverty-aware social work can be seen in the collaboration of social workers working with anti-poverty charities such as ATD Fourth World. For example, BASW’s collaboration with the Child Welfare Inequalities Project (CWIP) and ATD Fourth World to create the Anti-Poverty Practice Guide for Social Work (BASW and CWIP, 2019). This guide enables social workers to understand poverty in all its forms by including people who have lived experience in poverty to empower their voices and ensure these are heard. The CWIP’s research has identified that poverty is ‘the wallpaper of practice’ where poverty has a significant impact that most people social workers work with experience, yet is rarely taken into account in practice, for example assessments of parenting capacity can be negatively perceived due to a lack of consideration of the impacts of poverty.”

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