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Empowerment in the Relational Longitudinal Space of Vulnerability

  • Nick Emmel (a1)

The term vulnerability has little theoretical purchase in social policy. It is used widely as a short-hand phrase to describe deficit. As such, it provides only limited value and has little regard for the wider structures of society that might ameliorate, sustain or exacerbate vulnerability. There is, however, a critical literature that seeks to understand the social, economic and political relationships that produce vulnerability and its potential opposite, flourishing. This article draws on this theoretical literature, focusing particularly on relational accounts of autonomy, capabilities and functioning, and the role of societal institutions. Using cases drawn from empirical research investigating how grandparents care for their grandchildren in relationships characterised by rescue and repair, this article refines a relational model of the longitudinal space of vulnerability. It extends explanation of three dimensions of the model: basic needs, the capacity to be and access to service providers, and elaborates on how these dimensions inter-relate through an investigation of empowerment.

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