'Necessity is Neither Condemned nor Praised': Social Workers' Meanings of Guardianship for Disabled People

Roni Holler*, S. Werner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Throughout the years, disabled people, especially those with intellectual and mental disabilities, have frequently been appointed authorised guardians. Having been criticised for restricting individual freedom and autonomy and in line with the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a 2016 reform in Israel's Legal Capacity and Guardianship Law called for restricting the use of guardianship and preferring less restrictive alternatives, specifically supported decision making (SDM). The success of this reform rests largely on social workers. This study examined the meanings social worker attach to guardianship and SDM. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty-seven Israeli social workers. The findings showed that whilst they acknowledged the shortcomings of guardianship, they nevertheless perceived it to be vital. They provided three justifications for this view: guardianship as a safeguarding practice, guardianship as promoting individual well-being and guardianship in the service of third parties. These findings are discussed in terms of their meaning for guardianship as a risk-aversive practice designed to promote service users' well-being and quality of life and in terms of the role played by third parties in bringing SDM into force. Recommended steps for moving the current reform in guardianship from paper to practice are highlighted.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)98-115
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Guardianship reform
  • Israel
  • Risk
  • Supported decision making (SDM)
  • UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)


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