Exploring the relationships between choice and independence: experiences of disabled and older people

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Extending choice and control to the users of publicly funded services is a cornerstone in the personalisation agenda. It is assumed that giving service users greater choice and control will promote users' independence. As service users are increasingly given the responsibility to determine their support, social work practitioners need to work differently with service users in order to provide personalised support in exercising choice. This requires practitioners having a nuanced understanding of people's concepts of independence, how people make choices about support services and how those choices can impact on their perceived independence in the longer term. This paper reports new findings from a longitudinal qualitative study of choice and control over the life course in England. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with fifty adults and older people experiencing fluctuating support needs and/or a sudden deterioration in health. The paper discusses the relationships between choice and independence as experienced by disabled and older people. The findings show that independence is not a fixed concept, but is relative and multidimensional. There are multiple relationships between the choices people make and the consequences of those choices for people's subjective views of their independence. The paper concludes by highlighting the implications of findings for the role of social work practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)872-888
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date2 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • disabled people
  • older people
  • social care services
  • choice
  • independence

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