I’m doing a paper in my social work class which is meant to assess my understanding of social justice and its applicability and implications to different spheres of social and economical life. My...

I’m doing a paper in my social work class which is meant to assess my understanding of social justice and its applicability and implications to different spheres of social and economical life. My understanding is that social justice is a core value of social work. Could someone clearly elucidate the meaning and application of social justice.  And would you give me only one illustration to highlight my point please

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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You are right to say that social justice is one of the core values of social work.  In fact, you could argue that social justice is the core value of this profession.  Let us look at what social justice means and how it can be connected to social work.

Social justice can be defined as the idea that everyone in our society deserves to be treated equally.  Everyone should have equal rights and equal opportunities.  This equality should cover such areas as politics, economics, and society.  In the course of their work, social workers try to improve people’s material well-being by addressing their problems.  They do so not just by trying to solve the immediate problems that people face, but also by trying to achieve social justice on behalf of the client.

Let us look at an example of how this could work.  Imagine that a social worker is working with an African American family living in poverty in a small town.  The family’s son is doing poorly in school and has been subject to a lot of discipline such as suspensions.  The social worker would try to do two things.  On the one hand, the social worker would try to work with the child to improve his attitude towards school and his academic ability.  However, the social worker would also try to achieve social justice.  In other words, the social worker would look to be sure that the child’s problems were not being exacerbated by racism.  The social worker might look into the way in which the child was being treated to make sure that he was not being treated differently on account of being black.  The social worker would also try to make sure that the family’s poverty did not preclude their son from having the same opportunities that other children enjoyed.

So, when we talk about social justice in the context of social work, we are saying that social workers need to work for justice, not just to fix immediate problems.  Social workers have to delve deeper into their clients’ problems to make sure that issues of race, class, and sex (among other things) are not contributing to those problems.  This is what it means for social justice to be a core value of social work.

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