Social Work History and Policy Paper: Social Justice and Current Social Welfare Policy Issues

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Social Work History and Policy Paper: Justice and Current Social Welfare Policy Issues

(Session 4 – 120 Points)

Social justice is a powerful ideal, but its meaning is many sided and highly contested. As a moral ideal, one’s beliefs about social justice and one’s definition of it are rooted in one’s ideological stance. Yet our personal conceptions of a just society—and the ways we believe it can best be achieved—make no sense unless they are connected to the larger social and political ideologies that inform them: ideas about the economic structure of society, the nature of the state’s responsibility to its citizens, the extent of citizens’ obligations to one another and to the state, and citizenship itself.

Your views on social justice, social work, and social welfare will deepen and grow throughout this course and the MSW program. This paper is a first step in articulating the perspectives and principles that you believe are central to defining social justice and to developing the social policies, programs, and practices that seek to achieve it. Taking a currently contentious social issue of interest to you, the assignment asks you to engage with, identify, and begin to critically analyze the social and political ideas shaping American social policies and programs using the analytic frameworks (political-economic paradigms and/or social justice theories) we have so far learned about in class, and also to articulate and defend your own position on the issue you selected.


First, select one of the following four issues and familiarize yourself with it using a range of sources representing different points of view on the subject:

  • ● Universal health care
  • ● Affirmative action
  • ● Right to die / physician-assisted suicide
  • ● School vouchers / charter schools
  • Since these are current issues, and thus not always the focus of books or academic articles, it will be appropriate for you to use online newspaper archives, other media, government websites, and other non- academic resources as well as scholarly sources.Next, write a 4- to 5-page paper that addresses the following:

● Introduction (1 page): Draw on your reading and background materials to summarize the issue as if you were explaining it, briefly and in straightforward language, to an uninformed person.

○ What is the social problem or issue?

  • ○ What solutions are being proposed in relation to it? By whom? In other words, summarize the issue, the key areas of conflict and debate, and the key players on each side.
  • ○ Use factual information to help describe the issue (e.g., the number of uninsured people in the United States, life expectancy differences between the United States and Canada, data on income inequality in the United States) and cite your sources. Also provide references if you describe key policies or policy documents.
  • ● Analysis (2–3 pages): Analyze the debate and public discourse through one of the lenses we have so far discussed in class (neoliberalism, social democracy, social and classical liberalism, etc.)
    • ○ What rights and responsibilities do conflicting groups assign to citizens and families, the state, and the market regarding this social problem and proposed solutions?
    • ○ What social and political ideologies (and related ideas about the ideal functions of the state) are reflected in the different positions on the issue?
    • ○ What social justice theories and/or principles are in use?
    • ○ Apply (and cite) course readings as you describe the different perspectives on your issue.Note: It is recommended that in this section you first present one side of the debate and then present the other side, rather than trying to go back and forth between them. Use the final paragraph or two of the section to step back and comment on and analyze the debate as a whole.
  • ● Conclusion (1 page): State what position you would take on this issue and explain why. Avoid simply refuting positions you disagree with. Instead, focus on affirmatively explaining the rationale behind your own view. If none of the social welfare policy solutions currently on offer seem appropriate to you, briefly outline your alternative proposal and, again, explain your rationale for it. Anchor your position in the course readings, including those on social work’s mission and code of ethics.Format: Present a graduate-level paper that has an introduction, an analysis (i.e., main body), and a conclusion, making clear to the reader in the final section the basis for the position you lay out and providing support for it. The point of the paper is not to summarize articles but to use material from the readings to critically analyze contemporary discourse around key social issues, clarify your own stance on social justice, and then present this understanding in your own words. Throughout the paper, please demonstrate (and reference where appropriate) your knowledge of the required readings, lectures, and discussions.Your paper should be double spaced (excluding the reference page) and typed using a 12-point font size and one-inch margins. Please do not exceed the page limit.References: Follow APA formatting style as described in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th edition).
  • Rubric:

7120 – 4 – Social Work History and Policy Paper





Introduction to Social Issue/Problem

The social problem has been clearly but succinctly defined. This includes providing a description of the social problem, identifying who is impacted (i.e., the population), specifically how they are impacted, and who are the significant proponents/opponents of the issue

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.


Analysis of Two Competing Sides of the Social Issue

Each side is clearly presented, and evidence is provided for how these positions illustrate a social justice perspective (i.e. social democratic, neoliberal, etc.). Clearly, identifies how these positions reflect the ideal functions of the state and its responsibility to its citizens. Equal attention has been paid to both sides of the issue. Work indicates clear recognition and good understanding of theories of justice, underlying political ideologies, one’s own understanding of justice, and their relationship to work/welfare issues and problems

Note: 50 points (25 per side presented)

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.



Individual position is clearly stated. Discuss how these views are consistent with or depart from the positions described in the analysis section. Provide an alternative, if applicable

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.


Writing, Mechanics, APA, etc.

Clear use of APA and followed for each citation chosen. Paper is well structured and coherent with the use of topic sentences, subject headings, and a clear thesis/paper roadmap. Free of stylistic/mechanical errors. The paper is cohesive with clear transitions between paragraphs

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.



Total Points


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