Social Work and the City pp 235-257
Living on the Edge: New Forms of Poverty and Disadvantage on the Urban Fringe
This chapter considers the impact of the built environment in generating new forms and locations of poverty and disadvantage. Drawing on evidence from Australia, this chapter investigates the increasing divide in many large and suburbanised cities between residents with access to jobs, services, community and cultural provisions, and those without. A growing body of research indicates the locational disadvantages that residents face living far from the central hubs of employment. Large and sprawling Australian cities such as Melbourne and Sydney demonstrate a pattern of high housing costs in the inner city where there is the largest concentration of the best paying jobs, high levels of public transport provision and access to a multitude of services. In contrast, the most affordable housing can be found in suburbs perhaps 30–40 kilometres from the centre, with little transport provision and few employment opportunities. Such places typically have a young family profile, a higher proportion of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, greater levels of mortgage and personal debt, and are more likely to experience socio-economic disadvantage. This is a new pattern of social division and exclusion, and one that is perhaps less visible than previous patterns of spatialised class divisions. Starting from the premise that access to resources is a key ingredient in avoiding long-term disadvantage, the chapter critically explores a number of dimensions of place as a focus of urban social work. What does this new context mean for social work practice? What challenges and opportunities does it present for social work to respond to alternate forms of poverty and disadvantage? What lessons may be drawn for other cities with similar urban forms?
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