The debate this past week over poverty and how social workers ought to handle financial assistance cases has been illuminating and has added to the public's understanding of the daily dilemmas faced by those in the front line of this emotionally draining yet often rewarding work. The discussion is timely, coming just two months after the President's Address highlighted the war on inequality as a key national priority. There continues to be concern especially about tackling inequality and ensuring that the gap between those at the lower percentiles and the rest of society does not widen. The reality is that whether one is a sole breadwinner in a low-wage job or a child surviving in a one-room flat, the experience of being poor is no fun. It adds a grey tinge to one's view of the world, sours relationships, clouds logic.
It is difficult. Just as difficult is the noble work of helping those in this predicament - undertaken daily by a host of professions and by ordinary people: neighbours, volunteers, friends, colleagues. There are no easy answers. At times, it may seem a balancing act between encouragement and gentle reproof, or between saying "yes" to a request and saying "later". What works in one case may not in another. There is no formula, no computer to churn out optimal solutions for each situation.