This chapter connects the macro and micro levels of analysis, focusing specifically on issues related to adults with learning disability — their abuse and exploitation, protection and empowerment. The macro examines how society treats learning disabled people, while the micro is concerned with individuals’ feelings about their abuse and place in the community and the consequent implications for social work practice. First, the chapter will explore the meaning of, and society’s contribution to, exploitation; how this impacts on learning disabled people in their homes and in public places. Second, it considers the balance between protection and the rights of users to take risks. Finally, it concentrates on empowerment, with particular reference to the role of self-advocacy. Throughout, we will address how social work practice can contribute to a new relationship based on opening up choices to disabled people while ensuring their safety. Social work agencies walk a tightrope between the provision of protective strategies and the type of services contributing to the prevention of abuse, while enabling vulnerable adults to make their own informed decisions wherever possible.
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