Eye on Ethics: The Challenges of Distributive Justice

Document Type


Department (Manual Entry)

School of Social Work


Social workers often encounter circumstances that require the allocation of scarce resources. In addition to program slots, social workers may need to allocate limited agency funds, employment positions, or the time available to meet with clients. In many social service settings decisions about allocating limited resources are made informally or without the benefit of a conceptually based protocol or clear criteria. Resources may be allocated based on an administrator's personal biases, political pressure, or agency customs. In fact, however, these decisions entail ethically complex dimensions pertaining to justice and fairness.