As Chapter 1 has demonstrated, the nature of intellectual disability can be conceptualized in many different ways, depending on stance and values. Currently, social policies reflect a rights perspective derived from the social model of disability or composite models such as the WHO International Classification of Functioning. This chapter is concerned, however, with the ways in which the ‘social problem’ of intellectual disability has been understood by the state, and the social policies and formal welfare provisions put in place at different historic times to address it. As social work is part of the states’ welfare apparatus, the prevailing conceptualization of the problem of intellectual disability at any historic time will strongly influence the roles of social workers, either as part of the system of services or in attempting to reframe and reform policy.
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