Critical social work in public social services: Poverty-aware organizational practices

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1 Scopus citations


Summary: Whereas some studies have addressed the conditions and practices required to infuse critical notions into the organizational context of public social services, there is a paucity of knowledge on what a critical public service can look like in actual practice. This article explores the possibility of applying critical theory and practice at the organizational level of public social services. It focuses on one social services department in Israel that underwent a six-year process of learning and implementing the Poverty-Aware Paradigm. Findings: Based on an in-depth case study that combines ethnographic and participatory methods, we outline how critical ideas are translated to four organizational principles: developing a critical learning culture, acknowledging services users’ knowledge and skills, leading a critical discourse in the community, and poverty-proofing services and allocating resources to tackle poverty. Each of these principles is presented with derivative organizational practices and a detailed account of their implementation. Applications: By broadening the framing of critical practice as an individual, street-level endeavor, the findings offer policymakers and public social services professionals an organizational model that mitigates the negative consequences of current neoliberal and managerial policies around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-521
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2023


  • Social work
  • child and family welfare
  • critical social work
  • organizational practice
  • poverty
  • social service

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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