Author ORCID Identifier

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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Social work., Social sciences, Interdisciplinary

Publication Details

Hanlon, N. (2022). Relational justice and relational pedagogy in professional social care work. Social Work Education, 1-18.


The principle of social justice is central to the newly regulated profession of Social Care Worker [SCW] in Ireland and the language of social justice features in the Standards of Proficiency [SoP] and Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics [CPCE]. This is very welcome given the history of institutional neglect and abuse in Irish social care. However, social care work in Ireland lacks a tradition of social justice in theory and practice, and policy is generally couched in minimalist terms of individual civil and political rights, equality of opportunity, and non-discrimination and is heavily focused on protection and risk management. Beyond this, exactly what social justice entails in social care work is poorly developed. This paper aims to advance a critical perspective on social care practice and pedagogy that integrates four interrelating social justice principles: redistribution, recognition, representation, and relational justice. Social care work and similar social professions are ideal contexts to incorporate principles of relational justice and develop models and skills for relational pedagogy because they are guided by an ethic of care at the micro-level of affective interactions, but they must do so in ways mindful of structural injustices and pursue both individual and institutional change.