The Republic of Moldova is a small post-Soviet country that has been “transitioning” from a socialist to capitalist economy since the 1990s. Once a prosperous region of the Soviet Union, it is now among the poorest countries in Europe, facing many social problems that call for a strong social work profession. However, social work is new to the country and the profession is challenged by low societal status, meager resources, and lack of cohesion. Social work in Moldova is struggling to meet these challenges with the help from the West and the emergence of an indigenous model of professionalization. Child welfare, elder care, mental health, as well as the history of social work in Moldova, current state of social work education with its obstacles to and opportunities for progress will be discussed.
Vadim Moldovan, Eugeniu Rotari, Vadim Tarna, and Alina Zagorodniuc
At its 2015 General Assembly, the United Nations formulated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to emergize its Member nations and social workers practicing in these countries to engage in environmentally sustainable social and economic development leaving no one behind. At the core of SDGs is the conviction that protecting planet Earth is possible by working collectively and ensuring that all human beings are able to realize their full potentials. The charges include solving a wide range of environmental, economic, and social problems including poverty, hunger, violence, and discrimination by 2030. The SDGs are inclusive of all people; they have galvanized all Member countries and their policy makers and practitioners, including social workers, to strive toward the common goals. Progress has been made from previous initiatives, but there are still challenges ahead. The first five SDGs are particularly relevant to social workers, who have an important role to play in alleviating poverty, promoting health and education, and empowering women and girls.
Vincent A. Fusaro
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal block grant program with a state contribution requirement that supports the provision of state aid to low-income families with children in the United States, including but not limited to cash assistance. Created by the 1996 welfare reform law, which ended entitlement to cash benefits under TANF’s predecessor Aid to Families with Dependent Children, TANF cash aid includes time limits and work requirements. States are also free to set their own program rules and may use funds for purposes other than direct poverty relief and services for cash assistance clients. Consequently, TANF varies widely across states in generosity of benefits, behavioral rules to which clients must adhere, and in the uses of program resources, with only about one-quarter of all state and federal TANF funds used for traditional cash assistance. Other priorities funded under TANF include work supports and child care, programming to promote two-parent families, refundable tax credits, and support of state child welfare systems. The end of entitlement to cash assistance under TANF was associated with a sharp decline in welfare caseloads and increases in employment in single-mother families nationwide. The initial implementation of TANF also coincided with a boom economy in the mid- to late-1990s and was immediately preceded by a large expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers. Studies disagree on the relative role each of these factors played in both caseload and employment trends, and women who moved off of welfare and into the labor force are often in unstable, low-paying jobs. The defining characteristic of cash-assistance receiving families is deep economic deprivation, and benefits do not bring a household above official income poverty in any state. In most states, they do not even bring a family to 50% of poverty. Cash assistance under TANF nonetheless remains an important backstop for families in extremely difficult circumstances.
Praveen Kumar, Smitha Rao, and Gautam N. Yadama
Energy poverty is lack of access to adequate, high-quality, clean, and affordable forms of energy or energy systems. It is a prominent risk factor for global burden of disease and has severe environmental, social, and economic implications. Despite recent international attention to address energy for the poor, there is a limited consensus over a unified framework defining energy poverty, which impacts almost 2.8 billion mostly poor people, especially in Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the largest number of energy poor. India, in South Asia, comprises a significant proportion of energy-impoverished households. There is a continued effort by the Indian government, non-profit agencies, and private organizations to address the needs of energy poor. Social workers have a significant role to play in these interventions addressing energy poverty in India. Emerging research and practice in the energy poverty field in India calls for transdisciplinary collaboration especially between social work practitioners of community development, environmental health, public health, and social policy.
Julie Birkenmaier, Mathieu Despard, Terri Friedline, and Jin Huang
Financial inclusion, the goal of financial access, broadly refers to the ability of all people in a society to access and be empowered to use safe, affordable, relevant, and convenient financial products and services for achieving their goals. Financial inclusion promotes household and societal financial well-being and requires access to an array of financial products and services such as savings accounts, credit cards, mortgage and small business loans, and small-dollar consumer loans. Despite the advantages, too many individuals and households lack financial inclusion and access by being unbanked, underbanked, and/or they are forced to use alternative financial services. Achieving financial inclusion will require participation from many different types of formal financial institutional actors, such as banks, credit unions, community development financial institutions, and national credit bureaus. Social work assists to build financial inclusion and access through practice innovations, research, and policy advocacy.
Michael Sherraden, Li-Chen Cheng, Fred M. Ssewamala, Youngmi Kim, Vernon Loke, Li Zou, Gina Chowa, David Ansong, Lissa Johnson, YungSoo Lee, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Margaret M. Clancy, Jin Huang, Sondra G. Beverly, Yunju Nam, and Chang-Keun Han
Child Development Accounts (CDAs) are subsidized savings or investment accounts to help people accumulate assets for developmental purposes and life course needs. They are envisioned as universal (everyone participates), progressive (greater subsidies for the poor), and potentially lifelong national policy. These features distinguish CDAs from most existing asset-building policies and programs around the world, which are typically regressive, giving greater benefits to the well-off. With policy innovation in recent years, several countries now have national CDA policies, and four states in the United States have statewide programs. Some of these are designed to be universal and progressive. Evidence indicates that true universality can be achieved, but only with automatic account opening and automatic deposits. In the absence of automatic features, advantaged families participate and benefit more. Today, momentum for universal and automatic features is gradually gaining traction and accelerating. At this stage in the emergence of inclusive asset-based policy, this is the most important development.
The International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on advocacy, knowledge-building, and technical assistance projects in various areas of social development carried out at the country level and internationally. Created in 1928 in Paris to address the complexities and challenges of social work, the ICSW has evolved through the years to embrace the major issues of social development, becoming a global organization committed to improving human well-being. Establishing common ground on issues of international significance and acting with partners through its nine regional networks, ICSW represents national and local organizations in more than 70 countries throughout the world. Membership also includes major international organizations. By virtue of its constitution, it operates as a democratic and accountable organization.
Social work often refers to economic justice but rarely considers what economic justice truly entails. This article specifies a number of areas that comprise economic justice issues and agendas. It also provides examples of how these issues are being advocated and many of the organizations that are involved in these campaigns. In addition, the text discusses the rationale for social work and social workers to be knowledgeable of and involved with economic justice initiatives. Six realms of economic justice are discussed, including inequality, workplace rights, living wage levels and minimum wages, immigrant rights in the workplace, community-labor partnerships, and social programs that support working families and individuals.
Margaret Sherrard Sherraden
Financial capability combines the ability to act with the opportunity to act in ways that contribute to financial functioning. As large numbers of people struggle to manage their household finances, financial capability has become increasingly important. Improving financial capability requires financial education and guidance as well as improved access across the life span to appropriate and beneficial financial products and services. Examples of policies that promote financial capability across the life span include Children’s Development Accounts and myRAs, long-term investment vehicles that build financial capability. Social work can play a key role in building financial capability through interventions in households, communities, and policies. However, these contributions require practice and research to develop and test interventions. They also require financial education for social workers.
This article examines the role of social workers in rural and remote areas of Australia. The uniqueness of Australia’s landscape, its vast distances, and sparse population base, create unique issues relating to service delivery in general and social work in particular. High levels of poverty, poorer health, lower socio-economic status, and an aging population base typify Australia’s remote areas. Despite these factors, inland regions of the country are subject to economic rationalist policies that make service access problematic. It is in these regions that rural and remote social workers practice. The article outlines the personal, practical, and professional challenges facing social workers and notes the unique opportunities available to workers who choose to live and work in these regions.