Focus on Social Work Law

by Alison Brammer

Capacity and Autonomy

By Robert Johns

Practice issues surrounding the legal concept of capacity are of fundamental importance to social work. The profession is committed to maximizing service users' autonomy yet vulnerable people may be at risk of abuse or injury if they exercise complete independence – so practitioners need to know in what situations it is appropriate for that autonomy to be curtailed.

This accessible and practically-grounded text equips social workers with the legal knowledge needed to work effectively with some of the most vulnerable people in society. It explores capacity in relation to minors, vulnerable adults and mental health, as well as covering complex issues such as refusal to accept treatment and deprivation of liberty. The book goes on to explore the different legal mechanisms that are available for promoting autonomy and safeguarding people's interests.

The text is supported by a range of innovative features and boxed information to aid learning and stimulate reflection:
  • Key Case Analysis boxes summarize the details of particular legislation cases and outline the implications for social work practice.
  • Practice Focus boxes apply legal principles and processes to practice through the use of social work scenarios.
  • On-The-Spot Questions reinforce understanding and encourage critical reflection

Download the resources which accompany this text

This clearly written text is one I shall recommend to students and practitioners alike -Peter Simcock, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Staffordshire University, UK

Table of contents


  1. What can Children and Young People Decide for Themselves?
  2. Human Rights and the Development of Law
  3. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 Principles
  4. Mental Health, Mental Capacity and Empowerment
  5. Deprivation of Liberty
  6. Advocacy and Safeguarding People's Interests

About the author

Robert Johns is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the CASS School of Education and Communities, University of East London, UK. With over 30 years' experience of social work with children and vulnerable adults (including youth justice, mental health and as a children's guardian) he was written extensively on social work law.