by Steven W. Halady, PhD
Editor’s note: Steven Halady is a current MSW candidate (he entered the program with a PhD in Philosophy) and is the first student to write a guest blog post for SocialWorkSynergy. As Human Rights Day (December 10) approaches, his essay offers an expanded view of social justice and suggests a larger moral compass for the profession.
Human rights provide an important moral foundation for social work. Many social work practitioners, educators, and researchers acknowledge the ways in which human rights are an essential professional value. In its International Policy on Human Rights, the National Association of Social Workers notes that, “Human rights and social work are natural allies.” As Elizabeth Reichert writes:
For too long, social workers have stood aside from human rights, considering discussion of the topic to be more international and legalistic. Fortunately, this reluctance to integrate human rights into social work policies and practices has started to fade. Human rights now cover domestic, as well as international, circumstances, and, in many cases, human rights principles have a direct impact on local social work issues (Reichart, 2011).
I don’t question the fact that human rights are good for social work, but I want to ask, are they enough? Do human rights provide an adequate moral foundation? My answer to this question is, no, they do not.