The purpose of this critical discussion paper is to explore the different social values that drive and inform social welfare policy. Social values are essential for any social worker aspiring to make a considerable change in the community. Therefore, the analysis focuses on five main social values and debates. The discussion is presented using examples to explain how these social values and debates have influenced social policies. Subsequently, the discussion provides a thorough comparison of the discussed values and evaluates the implications of the social values in the implementation of social policy. The comparison of social values is followed by a succinct analysis of values based on personal opinions gauging them against the analysis of other authors. Finally, the discussion culminates with a conclusion section that synthesizes the information to provide opportunities for the audience to make a connection between the paper and the real-world application. The conclusion section probes the value that this discussion adds to the practice of social work in the real world.
Various social values and debates influence the creation and implementation of social policies as discussed below.
Social justice is a value concept that focuses on the relationship between people. Colby (2008) defines social justice as a measure by which humans assess how power, wealth, and resources are distributed and used. In essence, power and wealth should always be used to benefit all people instead of a few selected people. Thus, social justice is a value concept that discourages structural violence, whereby the quality of life and justice are negatively influenced by unjust or inequitable social structures. In the United States, the universal declaration of human rights and subsequent elimination of discrimination, promotion of social and political rights, and elimination of all forms of violence against women are solid examples of social justice programs and legislations. Therefore, the progress of a society is measured based on the extent to which the population is assured of equitable access to provisions of human rights. Social workers have nurtured social justice values to support the provision of social work services (Colby, 2008). For example, the Affordable Healthcare Act in the United States is an example of a public policy promoting social justice by encouraging equal and improved access to medical services regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender. It is argued that when social justice fails to inform the development of social structures, the social growth of a particular society may be compromised (Colby, 2008). Hence, social justice works by eliminating causes of physical violence likely to lead to loss of life, destruction of property, and environmental degradation.
The most persistent social problem that affected America and other notable countries across the globe in the last decade was racism. Schiele (2013) notes cases of racism relating to ethnic cleansing, promoting group hatred, and retraction of equality laws. In essence, one group may be threatened by a perceived loss of power thereby prompting it to exercise its social, political, and economic prowess against another group that merely retains its social advantage. Racism is a social problem that transcends prejudice and discrimination combined (Schiele, 2013). In social work practice, racism is at the heart of social structures that have been created to oppress specific social groups. As shown by Schiele (2013), racism is a deliberate attempt to restructure privileges subjectively and unequally, and therefore, leads to the treatment of certain people in ways that benefit them when using scarce resources. Racism leads to a supremacy ideology by placing negative meaning on existing social and cultural differences within a community. For example, cases of racism have increased in the sporting field in which Black players have been subjected to numerous cases of racist attacks. Besides, the continued growth of the Black Lives Matter public interest group is a manifestation that racism based on color has been on the rise. For example, there have been cases in the United States whereby White police officers have used excessive force on Black demonstrators compared to White people. In creating social policies, policy-makers must consider racism and develop social structures that ensure all people benefit from the use of resources.
Charity vs. Entitlement
Entitlement is a concept used by social workers to refer to government programs that potentially provide benefits to its population or members of a particular group. Stiglitz (2018) outlines that entitlement reforms refer to the effort of the government to formulate policies that change the way a government offers services to the people to fulfill certain requirements. Conversely, charity is the voluntary provision of services to specific groups of people to change their lives. There have been persistent debates regarding the two concepts. Overall, there are claims that charity organizations spearheaded the provision of welfare services in the past when the state showed no interest and intention of providing similar services (Stiglitz, 2018). Today, public entitlement is more popular than charity because charities cannot adequately replace social programs that people are entitled to in modern societies. Stiglitz (2018) divulges that the well-established social insurance should not be uprooted in favor of charity. As much as charity worked well in the past to ensure that people accessed services, charity organizations are facing criticisms on their capability to provide services without discrimination. Besides, most of the charity works are consistently strained by budgets as well-wishers do not see the need to support services already provided by the government. For example, Medicare is a social policy formulated in the United States to support the provision of healthcare services to the people, including the elderly. As such, repealing Medicare in favor of charity may only subject many people to health inequality, and may not necessarily increase the number of health care charities. Therefore, the discussions and debates concerning charity and entitlements continue to inform policy formulation, whereby governments attempt to provide services that have major positive impacts on its people.
Deserving vs. Undeserving
In the last decade, deserving and undeserving concepts dominated public circles and defined social welfare discussions. Coates (2014) affirms that governments should develop social welfare programs by differentiating between deserving and undeserving population. In essence, deserving people include those who are unable to work because they are hindered by age, disability, or sickness. Consequently, the undeserving are those who do not want to work yet they are capable of working as they are of the appropriate age, have good health, and able-bodies. For example, the United States government offers technical welfare programs like the Temporary Assistance for the Needy Families (TANF) to families living in poverty. In reality, the sustained public debates on who deserve and do not deserve public programs inform the creation of policies that provides inherent distinctions (Schneiderman, 2018). Accordingly, the provisions of policies continue to determine the treatment of welfare recipients.
Crisis Response vs. Prevention
Across the world, crisis and trauma happen without discriminating. Today, many people are experiencing violence or are contemplating suicide. The suicidal thoughts and threats of disasters have prompted the need for disaster response and prevention to mitigate the occurrence of such disasters. MacGillis (2015) posits that crisis prevention and response programs spearheaded by social workers aim to provide help to people when they need it. The numerous crisis and disasters that need prompt response and prevention include natural phenomena, sexual abuse, suicide, substance abuse, and criminal shooting. Crisis management is an item that has formed the basis of social policy discussions in the recent past. In the opinion of Abramovitz (1998), crisis management should be proactive rather than reactive. As such, preventing a crisis from happening should be the first activity, and if done correctly, there may be no need for a response. Crisis prevention is achieved by monitoring social issues and assessing potential risks associated before designing a crisis communication plan. Conversely, disaster coordinators and educators believe that adequate planning and creation of disaster response policies are integral in preventing a crisis (Abramovitz, 1998). For example, the United States has witnessed myriad cases of school shooting, the latest being the Florida shootings. The school shootings are an absolute tragedy that has attracted the attention of policy formulators to put in place programs and structures to mitigate the hazards and threats schools face throughout the nation. Therefore, sustained debates on establishing robust crisis response and prevention structures are significant in helping social policy-makers to probe the most important activity they should focus on when making policies.
Comparison of Social Values
The values and beliefs are prescribed standards that determine what is good or bad in society. Social values are deeply rooted in society and are essential in transmitting and teaching the beliefs of a particular society. Social values imply that they help shape societies by suggesting the good and bad, and aspects that should be avoided to stimulate social, political, and economic growth. Therefore, social values and sustained debates on social values are essential in the creation of public policies. There are social policies that complement each other though have notable differences and similarities.
The provision of services and help should be done not to justify social justice or eliminate racism, but to identify those in need of the services accurately. Schiele (2013) posits that the population consists of the elderly and the sick who cannot work, and able-bodied and healthy individuals capable of working but decide not to work. Therefore, it implies that the provision of support services should be done for the sake of poor and vulnerable members before looking at the whole community in pursuit of equity. Besides, public entitlements complement enhancing social justice, elimination of racism, and helping the deserving vulnerable members. Here, Medicaid can be mentioned as an example of a social policy that enhances social justice and eliminates racial discrimination when offering healthcare to the deserving population. A charity may not complement the above because charity organizations decide how and when they assist. Notably, crisis response and prevention do not complement the mentioned social values and debate but is essential in creating an environment where the deserving members can access help.
Applying Own Values
I believe that social justice and entitlement to public services should be prioritized. NASW outlines how social justice assists individuals to exercise broad arrays of human rights like political participation, securing employment, and accessing quality healthcare. Fortunately, people are entitled to most of these services as part of the government’s initiative to advance personal, society, and a nation’s growth. I believe that prioritizing social justice and entitlement can be achieved by making the policy-making process transparent and rooted in ideologies governed by purpose and perspective. I feel that in addition to the mentioned values, social workers and policy-makers can be objective in addressing the needs of the people while demonstrating transparency and accountability after every activity in the process. I tend to disagree with Abramovitz (1998) claiming that charity work should replace public entitlement. I affirm that charity organizations may not have the public will, support, and budgetary strength to provide services to many people. Moreover, in my opinion, I tend to disagree with people fighting racism using public policies. Racism has been present since the time of our forefathers. However, I wish policy-makers can show empathy and sustain honest discussions concerning the provision of social services to the minority, marginalized, and vulnerable communities.
Social values and debates revolving around social issues are important in the development and implementation of social and public policies. In the discussion about social values, social justice and racism are essential in promoting equality in the use and distribution of resources. Thus, formulated policies should not promote supremacy by making one group dominate the other due to color or income. Most of the social problems witnessed in modern societies are a result of weak and inappropriate policies formulated without due consideration of social values. Modern societies continue to contend with mass shootings involving the Black population because the government has failed to address social justice systems. As a result, shooters create a crisis because they attempt to stand against perceived discrimination and oppression. Besides, problems occur when policies stand on the way of services and programs the public is entitled to. In the consequence, there is a tendency of policies supporting and providing essential services to the undeserving, leaving out the needy. The world is poised to continue experiencing social problems, crises, and tragedies if policies are made without considering social values.
Abramovitz, M. (1998). Social work and social reform: An arena of struggle. Social Work, 43(6), 512-526.
Coates, T. (2014). The case for reparations. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/.
Colby, I. (2008). Social welfare policy as a form of social justice. The Profession of Social Work, 4, 50-77.
Haynes, K. (1998). The one hundred-year debate: Social reform versus individual treatment. Social Work, 43(6), 501-509.
MacGillis, A. (2015). Who turned my blue state red? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/who-turned-my-blue-state-red.html.
NASW. Read the code of ethics”. NASW. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/about/ethics/code-of-ethics/code-of-ethics-english.
Schiele, J. (2013). Social policy and racial regulation of people of color. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Schneiderman, R. (2018). Why do Americans still hate welfare? New York Times. Retrieved from https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/10/why-do-americans-still-hate-welfare/.
Stiglitz, J. (2018). The American economy is rigged”. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-american-economy-is-rigged/.