Social workers need to have a good understanding of the cultural contexts within which the families they are working with are living. Whilst each context will be unique in many respects, the majority of families involved with social workers will share the experience of living in impoverished circumstances. At a time when levels of family poverty are rising rapidly in the UK and many other European countries as a result of a global financial crisis followed by economic recession and major cuts in public spending, it is particularly important that social workers understand the impact of poverty on the lives of the adults and children with whom they are engaged. One of the best ways of developing an understanding of any aspect of culture is to listen to people talking about their lives. Using a combination of research evidence based on the first-hand accounts of parents and children, and analysis of selected practice examples drawn from anti-poverty social work in England, the key elements of culturally competent practice for social work with families living in poverty are identified.