Graduate presents research at social work conference

Over the 16th – 18th September, Hallam graduate Kiri Smith attended and presented at the Joint University Council Public Administration Conference 2019: Public Administration and Social Work at the Margins. The conference saw academics gathering to share and explore developments in the field of public administration and social work. The focus of this year’s conference was on austerity and Brexit.

Here’s Kiri describing her experience at the conference . . .

Can you explain your reasons for attending the conference?

When I chose my dissertation topic I wanted the research to be applicable. By sharing my research in an academic area, I felt I might be able to highlight the need for poverty-aware teaching amongst social work education practitioners.

Kiri Smith

Can you tell us a little bit more about your research on social work education and poverty?

In order to provide a baseline indicator of knowledge, I researched social work student perceptions and understanding of poverty. I found that the predominant definition of poverty given by students actually amounted to a description of destitution, with very little understanding of the impact of relative poverty. Whilst most students believed that poverty is caused by structural, economic factors, there was still a stigmatising of and distancing from poverty. In the light of this, I recommended that the impact of poverty on service users needs to be more explicitly included within the social work curriculum and that students should be enabled to explore and examine their own attitudes towards and assumptions about poverty.

How did you find the experience of presenting your research?

Nerve-wracking! But not as scary as being included in the subsequent panel discussion. Fortunately, the atmosphere was supportive and encouraging. And the questions asked have helped me make connections to other relevant ideas – so much food for thought!

What impact do you hope your research will have?

Hopefully my research might influence the social work curriculum at Hallam. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has just launched poverty-awareness guidelines for social work practitioners – my research seems to indicate that this approach should be shared with all social work students. My feelings are that if social work practitioners don’t recognise poverty unless it’s destitution, there’s a danger of missing a significant factor that influences every aspect of a service user’s life.

And finally, what happens next?

I’m currently a child protection social worker, which is quite busy! But I’d be excited to develop poverty-awareness workshops both for students and practitioners – and maybe explore some action research with service users.

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