Older People, Personalisation and Self: An alternative to the consumerist paradigm in social care

Gareth O'Rourke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Personalisation of social care for adults is a key policy objective in the United Kingdom (UK), as in many other welfare states, having gained wide acceptance as essential for the empowerment of service users and as a means of managing increasing population demand. The system of personal budgets being established in the UK pursues twin objectives: aiming to 'empower' individuals to achieve 'more for less'. However, there is mixed evidence that either objective is being achieved in practice. This is especially so in respect of older people who are less likely to accept a personal budget and more likely to be dissatisfied with their experience of using one. A qualitative study of eight cases in two local authority areas in England explored older people's experience of using a personal budget taken in the form of a direct payment. Data were elicited through a series of three in-depth interviews with each participant. The study was concerned with understanding the relationship between participants' experience of 'Self' and personalised services. Participants experienced personalisation when paid carers perceived and accommodated their 'special requirements of Self'. In most cases this was achieved despite the consumerist aspects of personalisation rather than because of them, and often gave rise to risk and dilemma. The findings emphasise the importance of holistic assessment, and commissioning for quality over maximising choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1008-1030
Number of pages23
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number5
Early online date27 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • choice
  • consumerism
  • direct payments
  • personalisation

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