Social Workers Speaking Up: Poverty Costs

Posted on March 4, 2010 in Social Security Debates

Source: , – For Immediate Release – 2010 National Social Work Month
March 1, 2010

Poverty Costs

“It negatively impacts well-being. It compromises human rights. It goes against Canada’s image as a fair and equal country. This is what social workers often see and say when discussing poverty,” says CASW President Darlene MacDonald. “But, also we look at it from a different perspective – the costs of poverty to individuals, to our country, and to society as a whole.”

With this in mind, both the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) and the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE) mark National Social Work Month 2010 with the theme “Social Workers Speaking Up: Poverty Costs”.

Poverty costs people their physical, emotional, social, and mental well-being. Poverty contributes to social exclusion, material deprivation, lower achievement in school, an increased risk of illiteracy, and higher drop-out rates. From its impact on neural development, language development, and memory in children to worsened dental health and doubled rates of arthritis and rheumatism, the range of poverty’s effects on health are broad and cross the entire life span.

Poverty has a significant cost for governments and society. Because of the relationship between poverty and poor health, lower productivity, and lower educational attainment, the immediate and long-term costs are many. For example, the elimination of child poverty would produce extra tax revenues nationally of between $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion. Currently, federal and provincial governments across Canada lose between $8.6 billion and $13 billion in income tax revenue to poverty every year. Canadians could save $7.6 billion per year in health-care expenditures by elevating the health status of those in the bottom 20% on the income ladder to that of the next higher group.

Dr. Grant Larson, Vice-President of the Canadian Association for Social Work Education, explains, “Canada was a signatory in 2000 to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which resolved to eliminate poverty worldwide by 2015.  Little progress has been made toward this goal even in Canada, where the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow.  It is imperative that social workers not only work toward repairing the costs of poverty on individuals, families, and communities, but that they work in solidarity with local, regional, and national organizations to develop the political will for action against poverty.”

Social workers daily see the costs of poverty – emotional, physical, social, and financial. These numbers make it hard for others to ignore. If we want to ensure the health and well-being of all people living in Canada, poverty reduction is the best starting point.

While the CASW and CASWE are encouraged by the efforts of some provinces to implement poverty reduction strategies, more needs to be done.

During National Social Work Month, social workers call upon citizens to recognize the impacts of poverty and to support its eradication. Further, the CASW and CASWE call upon on levels of government to address poverty in Canada through an integrated, national plan to eliminate poverty that has sufficient federal investments in social security for all Canadians and ensures dignity for all.


For more information:

Canadian Association of Social Workers

Tel.: 613.729.6668


Canadian Association for Social Work Education

Tel.: 613.792.1953


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