Making informed choices in social care: the importance of accessible information

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current policy trend is to encourage greater choice in the use of welfare services. To make informed choices, people need information. The process of finding and using information has costs for individuals in terms of effort, time and material resources. These costs are different for different people and impact on their use of information in different ways. Thus, the accessibility of information is important in ensuring those people who need to make choices can do so in an informed way. This paper discusses the importance of information in making informed choices about social support by drawing on the findings of a scoping review of government research and development activity on the accessibility of information about adult social care services. The scoping review was carried out in spring 2006. Details of recent, current and planned projects were obtained through discussions with staff in government departments, government agencies and other related organisations identified using a snowballing technique. Forty-two contacts were made. Eleven research and 36 development projects were identified that aimed to investigate or improve the accessibility of information about social care services. A limited literature search was undertaken on information needs in areas not already under investigation by government. Eighteen articles were identified. Information and helpline staff from six voluntary organisations gave their views on the accessibility of information about social care services. Our findings show that there is no government-related or other recent research evidence on the specific information access needs for some user groups and services, for example, people from ethnic minority groups. For other user groups, such as people with chaotic lifestyles, there is evidence on information needs but no current or planned development projects to address these needs. The implications for the costs of finding and processing information to aid informed choices are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-207
Number of pages11
JournalHealth & social care in the community
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008

Bibliographical note

This article was published by Blackwell publishing in their journal Health and Social Care in the Community in 2008. The full reference is: Baxter, K., Glendinning, C. and Clarke, S. (2008) Making informed choices in social care: the importance of accessible information, Health and Social Care in the Community, 16, 2, 197-207. The definitive version is available at


  • access
  • information
  • informed choice
  • social care

Cite this