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Realising values: The place of social justice in health social work practice in Aotearoa New Zealand

Values are numerous, interrelated and hard to discern in professional practice. This article reports on key findings from research into locating professional values within health social work practice in Aotearoa New Zealand. The research explores how 15 health social workers experience and negotiate value demands when working with newborn infants. A staged methodology underpinned by constructivist grounded theory was utilised to generate theoretical knowledge through two phases of semi-structured individual interviews. The research firmly located health social workers practice in the middle ground of a complex, tension-ridden practice environment with health social workers courageously striving to balance competing requirements. Within a health model influenced by neoliberal policy, key tensions related to challenges faced due to professionals oversimplifying social circumstances in risk-laden situations. This resulted in issues of judgements, bias and racism being a central concern for the participants’ social work practice. Despite these tensions, the place of social justice as a primary organising value was affirmed by the research. A stronger focus on the profession’s values would strengthen the collective voice of health social workers and their identity, in order to better address the systemic drivers of health inequities.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Informa UK Limited
This is an author’s accepted version of an article published in the journal: Ethics and Social Welfare. © 2022 Informa UK Limited.