Social justice

Higgs, Alison (2015). Social justice. In: Bell, Linda and Hafford-Letchfield, Trish eds. Ethics, Values And Social Work Practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press, pp. 112–121.



This chapter considers how neoliberal economic and social policy has influenced social work, asserting as it has the primacy of the market and operating at an ideological level regarding those who need services (Jordan, 2004; McLaughlin, 2005). Social workers have the "capacity to care and serve on the one hand and oppress and brutalize on the other" (Singh and Cowden, 2009: 91). It is this capacity that underlines the need for an ethical code in social work that is about more than avoiding professional misdemeanour (Banks, 2006: 12) and which addresses effectively the moral issues at stake in social work interventions. In this chapter, I suggest that these moral issues encompass not only individual conduct or personal belief but also choices about participating in a broader social justice agenda, which should be at the heart of the contemporary social work endeavour. Accounts of social workers' frustration and anxiety about unmanageable caseloads, and statements about the realities of practice expectations as very different from their reasons for training are all too frequent (Baginsky et al., 2009), with social workers reporting a performativity and managerialist culture where effectiveness is measured in terms of cost and where there is little space for reflecting on the complexities of social work (Jones, 2001).

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