• Deserving to deserve: Challenging discrimination between the deserving and undeserving in social work

      Solas, John (2018)
      A distinction between the deserving and undeserving has been in some respects a distinguishing, and in many others, divisive, feature of the social work profession. The apparent distinction has traditionally been drawn on the basis of ethical and moral appraisals of virtue and vice. This tradition has a much longer pedigree dating from antiquity in which considerations of personal desert were crucial, indeed decisive, in redistributive and retributive justice (Zaitchik 1977). Over the passage of time, moral authority has yielded more and more power to knowledge (Foucault, 1973). Rationality has superseded dogmatism, and the assessment of those eligible for welfare has been well honed. Although income and means tests form the official basis for distributing welfare, whether or not moral desert has been abandoned remains in question. However, how might desert be managed, if it does indeed continue to exert a powerful, albeit covert, influence on claims to state-provided or sponsored welfare? One possible answer to this question follows, first by noting the obvious, though, unappreciated importance of, desert, followed by a discussion of its integral relation to justice, and finally outlining how social work could use it as a normative force.