The impact of personal budgets on unpaid carers of older people

John Woolham, Nicole Steils, Guy Daly, Katrina Ritters

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This paper focuses on the impact of a personal budget (PB) – either in the form of a direct payment (DP) or managed personal budget (MPB) – on the role of unpaid carers of older budget holders. Data were collected via postal survey of 1500 unpaid carers and semi-structured interviews with 31 carers.

Unpaid carers played a central role in supporting older budget holders irrespective of the type of budget received. The allocation of a PB may have decreased the amount of ‘hands-on’ care they provided, enabling them to do different things for and with the person cared for, but most did not relinquish direct involvement in care provision. Both kinds of PB provided greater flexibility to juggle caring tasks with other roles, such as childcare or paid employment. However, carers supporting DP users did experience higher levels of stress. This seemed linked to the additional responsibilities involved in administering the DP. Carers seemed relatively unsupported by their local Adult Social Care Department: the survey found that only 1 in 5 said they had ever received a carer assessment.

The findings offer a detailed exploration of the impact of PBs on carers, suggesting that even in countries with relatively well-developed systems of support for carers such as England their impact remains overlooked. The paper may be of interest to social work practitioners, managers, academics and social work policy specialists working in countries that have, or are about to introduce, personal budgets or other forms of cash-for-care scheme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Work
Early online date17 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2016


  • social work, carers, older people, personlisation, social care, direct payments


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