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The ‘Empowerment Debate’: Consumerist, Professional and Liberational Perspectives in Health and Social Care

  • Fenella Starkey (a1)


This article aims to clarify the meaning of the much-used term ‘empowerment’ in order to contribute to a more theoretically coherent development of policy and practice aimed at facilitating the empowerment of health and social care service users. The liberational and consumerist models of empowerment are highlighted, with the former having a broader emphasis on people's roles within society than the latter. The concept of ‘empowerment as professional practice’ is also critically explored, with the conclusion that professionals can work with people in empowering ways if they recognise and work to address the structural causes of oppression.



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This work was conducted as part of doctoral studies undertaken in the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol. I would like to acknowledge the invaluable support and encouragement provided by my PhD supervisor, Mr Randall Smith. Thanks also to the anonymous referees for their helpful and constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper.



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