In our society there are so many labels. The social stratification in our society pushes for greater stigmatization of our lower classes. Low income people are often treated as second class citizens making them feel worse about their economic situation. Often times, just in order to be able to survive these low income people are forced by their circumstances to seek and apply for public assistance.
For many years, many have believed that public assistance to needy families create a dependency of on the welfare system. In fact one of the main reasons why the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program was created was because advocates for the new program believed that “welfare dependency as both the cause and effect of a variety of social ills, including teenage pregnancy, crime, and low labor-market participation among racial and ethnic minorities.” (Bentele & Nicoli, 2012) While it is not the case for every single recipient of public assistance it seems that there does seem to be a dependency to these programs.
In our class text we see that the most common stereotype “of the typical recipient is a never-married minority-group woman living in the inner city of a large urban area, having her first child at a very young age, having a large number of children, and receiving assistance on a more of less permanent basis.” (Popple & Leighninger, 2015, p. 110) These perceptions are enough to not only deter people from actually trying to apply for benefits that would improve their life and help them get ahead, but it hurts them by spreading prejudice and stigma further into our society.
The perceptions and the unpopularity of public assistance among the higher classes that do not need these benefits create such a negative stigmatization for the lower class people who in turn are then further impacted by their poor situation. For example, poverty already affects a person’s self-esteem, physical, social and emotional growth, therefore, they are even more affected when they feel like second class citizens just for trying to feed themselves and their family with government help.
Being aware of these perceptions allow me to help my clients even more. They make me aware of reasons why my clients might be hesitant to apply for benefits even though they are in desperate need. However, I can use this to help my client apply for benefits then allow them to set goals where they will get back on track and on their feet and no longer need to receive these kinds of assistance. We can use these stigmas to help them push themselves up and go above and better their situation and their life. We can use this to encourage them to become successful and push harder to be able to say that they no longer need these benefits and that they did it with hard work. We need to let our clients know that using public assistance is not a negative thing, as it is there to help them through tough times. We need them to see that they are not weaker, or second hand citizens because they use public assistance, but that they are strong because they are doing what they can to help their family.
Bentele, K., & Nicoli, L. (2012). Ending Access as We Know It: State Welfare Benefit Coverage
in the TANF Era. Social Service Review, 86(2), 223-268.
Popple, P. R., & Leighninger, L. (2015). The policy-based profession: An introduction to social
welfare policy analysis for social workers. (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson