Making it real of sustaining a fantasy? Personal budgets for older people

Karen West, Catherine Needham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The restructuring of English social care services in the last three decades, as services are provided through a shifting collage of state, for-profit and non-profit organisations, exemplifies many of the themes of governance (Bevir, 2013). As well as institutional changes, there have been a new set of elite narratives about citizen behaviours and contributions, undergirded by modernist social science insights into the wellbeing benefits of ‘self-management’ (Mol, 2008). In this article, we particularly focus on the ways in which a narrative of personalisation has been deployed in older people’s social care services. Personalisation is based on an espoused aspiration of empowerment and autonomy through universal implementation to all users of social care (encapsulated in the Making it Real campaign [Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP), no date)], which leaves unproblematised the ever increasing residualisation of older adult social care and the abjection of the frail (Higgs and Gilleard, 2015). In this narrative of universal personalisation, older people are paradoxically positioned as ‘the unexceptional exception’; ‘unexceptional’ in the sense that, as the majority user group, they are rhetorically included in this promised transformation of adult social care; but ‘the exception’ in the sense that frail older adults are persistently placed beyond its reach. It is this paradoxical positioning of older adult social care users as the unexceptional exception and its ideological function that we seek to explain in this article.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Issue number11/12
Early online date1 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

© Emerald Publishing Limited, 2017.


  • Social welfare, Welfare state, Elderly people


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