Choice in the context of informal care-giving

Authors


Hilary ArkseySenior Research FellowSocial Policy Research UnitUniversity of YorkHeslingtonYork YO10 5DDUKE-mail: ha4@york.ac.uk

Abstract

Extending choice and control for social care service users is a central feature of current English policies. However, these have comparatively little to say about choice in relation to the informal carers of relatives, friends or older people who are disabled or sick. To explore the realities of choice as experienced by carers, the present paper reviews research published in English since 1985 about three situations in which carers are likely to face choices: receiving social services; the entry of an older person to long-term care; and combining paid work and care. Thirteen electronic databases were searched, covering both the health and social care fields. Databases included: ASSIA; IBSS; Social Care Online; ISI Web of Knowledge; Medline; HMIC; Sociological Abstracts; INGENTA; ZETOC; and the National Research Register. The search strategy combined terms that: (1) identified individuals with care-giving responsibilities; (2) identified people receiving help and support; and (3) described the process of interest (e.g. choice, decision-making and self-determination). The search identified comparatively few relevant studies, and so was supplemented by the findings from another recent review of empirical research on carers’ choices about combining work and care. The research evidence suggests that carers’ choices are shaped by two sets of factors: one relates to the nature of the care-giving relationship; and the second consists of wider organisational factors. A number of reasons may explain the invisibility of choice for carers in current policy proposals for increasing choice. In particular, it is suggested that underpinning conceptual models of the relationship between carers and formal service providers shape the extent to which carers can be offered choice and control on similar terms to service users. In particular, the exercise of choice by carers is likely to be highly problematic if it involves relinquishing some unpaid care-giving activities.

Ancillary