It may seem strange to find a book on ‘capacity and autonomy’ in a series of books on social work law, but the practice issues surrounding the legal concept of capacity are of fundamental importance to social work. Social work is profoundly committed to principles of empowerment: speaking for the vulnerable, acting for the vulnerable, promoting the interests of the vulnerable, and essentially this means promoting people’s autonomy. Social work is committed to maximizing people’s independence, here meaning people’s ability to make decisions for themselves, yet there are vulnerable people who may be at risk of abuse or injury if they exercise complete independence — so the question arises, where is it ever appropriate for that autonomy to be curtailed?
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