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Questioning the vulnerability zeitgeist: care and control practices with 'vulnerable' young people

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Publication details

JournalSocial Policy and Society
DateE-pub ahead of print - 27 Nov 2013
DatePublished (current) - Jan 2014
Issue number3
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)1-17
Early online date27/11/13
Original languageEnglish


This article provides insights into how the concept of vulnerability operates in welfare and disciplinary processes for young people who are considered ‘vulnerable’. It reports from empirical qualitative research conducted in a large city in England which included interviews with vulnerable young people and with professionals working with this group. Findings highlight that despite differences of opinion about what constitutes ‘vulnerability’, it is a popular and powerful conceptual mechanism which underpins the delivery of service interventions for certain young people. A relationship between vulnerability and ‘transgression’ is revealed, calling into question dichotomous representations of young people as either ‘vulnerable victims’ or ‘dangerous wrong-doers’. It is argued that whilst it can be utilised in the pursuit of more ‘caring’ interventions with those who are seen to be ‘in need’, vulnerability is also a concept relevant to debates concerning selective welfare systems and behavioural regulation.

Bibliographical note

© 2013 Cambridge University Press

    Research areas

  • Vulnerability , Young people , Social control , Conditionality


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