Social justice principles call for equal rights and opportunities for everyone regardless of background or social status. On the other hand, social workers are passionate about assisting needy and vulnerable people tying this to social justice. The core of the mission statement of social workers is rooted in social justice. The National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics clearly states that social justice is one of the central values in their profession. The preamble states: “Social workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients…Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice.”
Practicing social justice through policy practice
There are many reasons to be a social worker, and one of them is participating in various advocacy activities to eradicate social injustices. It might be through public education, creating petitions, organizing meetings, engaging key stakeholders, or writing letters to editors. As a social worker, you should first recognize areas of social injustice. Once you have identified disenfranchised or marginalized communities, start working towards influencing these communities. Fight against racism, gender inequality, oppression, and discrimination whenever you see it.
Social Work students are prepared to promote social justice through advocacy and policy practice. This teaches them how to empower clients to advocate for change in society independently on behalf of vulnerable groups. Clients are enabled to be agents of social change. First, they are empowered to advocate for themselves and then make a broader change addressing the injustices affecting the community. All social workers are expected to be policy advocates for social justice.
The meaning of social justice in social work
Social justice and social work are different, but separating one from the other is difficult. As a social worker, one needs to have great communication and empathy skills to relate to clients going through various life challenges. The clients may be stressed or experiencing trauma, among other things, due to some social injustices, and it is the duty of social workers to ensure they’re treated with dignity and respect. Social workers promote these ideals in community centers, hospitals, schools, and other institutions.
A social worker’s role is to help and protect oppressed and vulnerable children and adults. They focus on various social injustices, especially those that directly affect their clients, like poverty, unemployment, discrimination, domestic violence, and affordable housing, among other social and economic issues.
Different areas present different conditions for social workers to respond to. Often these may be unfamiliar as culture, economic conditions, infrastructure, and politics vary from state to state and often between counties. There are, of course, crossovers, which means that core training requirements and experience can be the same in different areas and qualifications from one state valid in others. There is a master’s degree from Florida State University, which is practicable in other states due to the LCSW requirements in Georgia, for example.
Being a social worker requires a career-long commitment to professional development, which gives them access to new knowledge and practices, which ultimately helps them serve their communities more effectively.
Here are some social justice principles to apply in social work.
Community and common good
Everyone has social needs, and human relationships are a vehicle to provide those needs and bring change. Our families are the foundation of our relationships and influence our lives profoundly. Unfortunately, many families experience issues, and this is where social workers have a role in promoting the wellbeing of families and supporting them in a multitude of ways. This support can take many forms and is assessed case by case, with each family’s individual needs considered. Often this support takes the form of advocacy, fighting to have specialized support put in place. This requires direct engagement with education, medical and government agencies to ensure their clients’ needs are met. This advocacy for the health and happiness of families aims to improve wider social conditions by strengthening relationships in communities at all levels and ensuring everyone’s welfare is respected.
The core value of a just society is human dignity. Every institution is expected to enhance the dignity and quality of life of all human beings. A social worker’s key role is to respect and treat every individual with dignity and uphold the universal human rights principles. They are caring, respectful, and mindful of people’s ethnicity and cultural diversity. They’re tasked to advocate social needs for communities and institutions. They work to rid society of exploitation and discrimination against anyone or a group.
The dignity of work and rights of workers
In today’s marketplace, the bottom line tends to take precedence over human dignity. However, the economy is supposed to serve its citizens, not the other way around. The rights of all employees must be respected and protected for there to be the dignity of work. The right to decent wages, productive work, own private property, join and organize unions, and take economic initiative. A social worker’s responsibility is challenging injustices related to inhumane labor practices, worker’s rights, and unemployment issues. They participate in the formation of labor unions, participate in them and work to improve the working conditions of employees.
Have you ever heard the adage you are your brother’s keeper? Well, it’s true. Despite our nationality, race, ethnic background, and ideological differences, we are one big family. Social workers acknowledge that relationships are essential vehicles of change. For this reason, social workers strive to promote diversity, cooperation, and solidarity between all members of society while acknowledging the needs of each individual community. They help their clients cultivate a robust support system around them comprising various agencies, individuals, and specializations.
One of our fundamental human rights is the right to adequate housing. Living in a sufficiently dry, warm, spacious, and light home is essential to individuals’ wellbeing. People who do not have access to these basic conditions experience many adverse responses, often expressed negatively. This is where social workers are called in. However, a social worker doesn’t’ just address the symptoms of inadequate housing but tackles its root cause and advocates for improving housing conditions. Social workers strive for their clients’ access to these services and resources and are often on the frontline of major issues in our society today, such as the homelessness crisis.
Government structures are set up to promote the common good and the public interest. Government functions are set to be carried out at the lowest point possible to ensure the empowerment of its citizens. Higher government levels are responsible for providing leadership and policies that ensure the common good. Social workers participate in political actions to promote equality, challenge injustice, and empower people to participate in governance at all levels.
Everyone has the right to be part and parcel of the country’s economic, cultural, and political welfare. Thanks to social justice, every individual should be allowed a minimum level of participation in the community. The unfair exclusion of some people or groups is an injustice. Social workers must ensure equal opportunity and meaningful participation, empowering people to influence social policies positively. They strive to ensure equal distribution of resources and that people have the necessary environment to meet their basic needs.
Benefits of social justice in social work
It permits the needy to obtain the essentials of a good life
When discussing equity, everybody merits having the fundamentals of a good life. Necessities like getting clean water, food, and shelter are a few. In numerous societies around the world, individuals underestimate these three basics. Take, for instance, food deserts in the United States. Or homelessness, which is increasing uncontrollably in Washington and Oregon and throughout the US. The same applies to other developed nations where individuals still need to get the fundamentals, despite there being an abundance of resources.
In view of such issues, individuals and social workers need to fight for the vulnerable who cannot do it. What is more, they can get these issues if social workers bring their challenges to light and advocate for something legitimately theirs.
It strives to promote diversity
Freedom to live according to your personal principles and beliefs is vital in today’s world and a central tenet in democratic societies. This involves respecting religious differences, cultural practices, and traditions, as well as respecting the opinions of others. The right to free speech has been a contentious issue in recent years as to what these freedoms mean and how far they should extend. A social worker must navigate this terrain with respect and compassion while ensuring that legal stipulations are adhered to in a just way. By promoting the rights and freedoms of all, social workers ensure that they are treating their clients with equality before the law and promoting a pluralistic society that recognizes the equality and the differences of all its members in a respectful and fair way.
It guarantees individuals get quality healthcare
Everybody is entitled to high-quality healthcare. Regrettably, only some get top-notch medical provision. There are many preventable illnesses that are caused by a lack of access to these services. Social workers fight for medical services for all. They are often called upon to navigate the complex and potentially confusing bureaucracy that can surround medical institutions and often inadvertently act as a barrier for many people. Social workers negotiate with medical teams; they can provide translation, ensure that care plans are implemented, and direct clients toward relevant programs and supports.
It encourages gender equality.
Gender inequality has been a subject of much discussion for many years. And endeavors to equalize opportunities for the sexes are ongoing at all levels of society. Social workers are particularly active in this social change because they are at the frontline of community life. Their role is to combat injustice and any policies, attitudes, or conditions adversely affecting their clients. For example, women fleeing domestic violence can be assigned social workers to support them and advocate for their rights. Social workers work to empower people of all genders to lead the best life they can. Whether that is working to support them with parenting, housing, health, work, or legal issues. So, while there is still gendered injustice in society, immense positive changes are being made every day.
Social work employees support people of all backgrounds, races, and communities in an endeavor to bridge the gender gap.
It aids with economic equality.
The wealth gap is another much-talked-about issue in modern times. A raft of societal issues ranging from inflation, mechanization, mass redundancies, and economic mismanagement work together to create difficult economic conditions. The use of food banks has been rising, as has the number of people who are homeless. Other particularly modern issues, such as the phenomenon of ‘food deserts’ in inner-city areas, are all the result of these challenging conditions. The social worker’s advocacy for equality does not seek to make everybody rich or everybody poor. But it does aim to provide the same opportunities and rights to the poor that the rich have.
Social work is truly a noble profession. Putting our most highly valued principles of compassion, respect, and fairness into practice, social workers strive to make life better for everyone by helping anyone in need. Therefore, a commitment to social justice is essential for any social worker or anyone considering a career in social work.