Accessibility statement

Social Harm and Injustice - SPY00025C

« Back to module search

  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Susan Watson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module will introduce you to the key concepts of social harm and injustice as they apply to a broad range of harmful and unjust events, practices and policies. It will use a whole life approach to understanding both short and long term harms across a wide spectrum of impacts including social, environmental, physical, psychological, cultural and financial harm. There will be a focus on those groups most at risk of harm using an intersectional lens of analysis.

Specifically, the module is organised in the following way:

  1. Over the course of the first three weeks of the module the concepts of social justice and social harm are introduced, and their real world implications are considered;

  2. The module then moves on to a series of social and public policy case studies considering how social injustice and harm may arise as a result of: political ideology; weak or limited policy; and failures in policy implementation. Five case studies are drawn on considering: approaches to poverty and social security, The Grenfell Tower fire, issues of public health (e.g. alcohol and food policy), the criminal justice system, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Different dimensions of social harm and injustice are introduced across these case studies including state, corporate and environmental harm, social inequality, and intersectionality.

  3. The final three weeks of the module will begin to consolidate material covered, and will consider emerging areas within the field of social harm studies.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will:

  1. Understand the concept of social justice and its real world implications

  2. Understand the origins of social harm theory, its relationship to criminology, and its underpinning arguments

  3. Be able to apply theories of social harm and justice to real world situations and to reflect on the implications for policy and policymaking

  4. Be able to apply theories of social harm and justice to a wide range of topics, sectors, and policy areas (e.g. from local to global).

  5. Be able to critically assess how the impacts of social harms and injustices affect different people differently


Task Length % of module mark
Written case study
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Revised version of written case study
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Indicative reading

  • Dwyer, P. (2013) ‘Social Justice’ in Dwyer, P. and Shaw, S. (Eds) An Introduction to Social Policy. London: Sage.

  • Taylor-Gooby, P. (2022) ‘Equality, Rights and Social Justice’ in Alcock, P., Haux, T., May, M. and Wright, S. (Eds) The Student’s Companion to Social Policy (6th Edition). Oxford: Wiley Blackwell

  • Pemberton, S. (2015) Harmful societies: Understanding social harm Policy Press. The module will also draw from the ‘Studies in Social harm’ series produced by PP

  • Hillyard, P., Pantazis, C., Tombs, S., & Gordon, D. (Eds.). (2004). Beyond Criminology: Taking Harm Seriously. Pluto Press.

  • Craig,G., Burchardt, T., and Gordon, D., (2008) Social justice and public policy: Seeking fairness in diverse societies Policy press

  • Poverty and social harm: challenging discourses of risk, resilience and choice ~ Simon Pemberton, Christina Pantazis and Paddy Hillyard;

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.