Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Spaces of Personalisation: Place and Distance in Caring Labour

  • Catherine Needham (a1)


The cluster of reforms to English social care associated with personalisation mark a break with recent thinking about what spaces are considered relevant and appropriate for people with an assessed social care need. The promise of personalisation from a spatial perspective appears to be twofold: expanding the physical spaces that are available to people, while at the same time contracting interpersonal spaces between people and those who support them to emphasise attentiveness and particularism. However, there is a danger that personalisation is much more variable in its impacts. The physical spaces for some are expanding while for others they contract, and these opportunities are likely to be unequally distributed in ways that overlay other forms of inequality. The attentiveness and particularism promised by personalisation is again patchily distributed, with wide variation in the quality of support planning and person-centred care. For the formal care workforce, the two concepts of space (physical environment and interpersonal closeness) intersect as physical spaces shape the capacity to deliver attentive, responsive care. The article brings these concepts together through a discussion of ‘caring labour’ at the intersection of the physical and emotional aspects of space.



Hide All
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (2012) The Case for Tomorrow, London: ADASS.
Barnes, M. (2008) ‘Is the personal no longer political?’, Soundings, 39, 152–9.
Barnes, M. (2011) ‘Abandoning care? A critical perspective on personalisation from an ethic of care’, Ethics and Social Welfare, 5, 2, 153–67.
Barnes, M. (2012) Care in Everyday Life: An Ethic of Care in Practice, Bristol: The Policy Press.
Baxter, K. and Greener, I. (2011) ‘The implications of personal budgets for the home care market’, Public Money and Management, 31, 2, 91–8.
Baxter, K., Wilberforce, M. and Glendinning, C. (2011) ‘Personal budgets and the workforce implications for social care providers’, Social Policy and Society, 10, 1, 5565.
Beresford, P. (2007) The Changing Roles and Tasks of Social Work from Service Users’ Perspectives: A Literature Informed Discussion Paper, London: Shaping Our Lives National User Network.
Beresford, P., Fleming, J., Glynn, M., Bewley, C., Croft, S., Branfield, F. and Postle, K. (2011) Supporting People: Towards a Person-Centred Approach, Bristol: The Policy Press.
Carr, S. and Dittrich, R. (2008) Personalisation: A Rough Guide, London: Social Care Institute for Excellence.
Clarke, J., Newman, J., Smith, N., Vidler, E. and Westmarland, L. (2007) Creating Citizen-Consumers: Changing Publics and Changing Public Services, London: Sage.
Conradson, D. (2003) ‘Spaces of care in the city: the place of a community drop-in centre’, Social and Cultural Geography, 4, 4, 507–25.
Cooper, A. and Lousada, J. (2005) Borderline Welfare, London: Karnac.
Davidson, J. (2005) ‘Professional relationship boundaries: a social work teaching module’, Social Work Education, 24, 5, 511–33.
Department for Education (2013) ‘Improving the adoption system and services for looked after children’, Press release, 3 January,
Department for Work and Pensions (2008) Raising Expectations and Increasing Support: Reforming Welfare for the Future, London: The Stationery Office.
Department of Health (2009) Personal Health Budgets: First Steps, London: Department of Health.
Department of Health (2013) Patients First and Foremost, The Initial Government Response to the Report of The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry, London: The Stationery Office.
Dunning, J. (2010a) ‘Ministers to be lobbied on personalisation development’, Community Care, 30 June.
Dunning, J. (2010b) ‘Personalisation may force day centre closures in Liverpool’, Community Care, 30 June.
Eiken, O. (2011) The Kunskapsskolan (‘The Knowledge School’): A Personalised Approach to Education, Paris: OECD.
Ellis, K. (2013) ‘Professional discretion and adult social work: exploring its nature and scope on the front line of personalisation’, British Journal of Social Work, doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct076.
Evans, T. (2013) ‘Organisational rules and discretion in adult social work’, British Journal of Social Work, 43, 4, 739–58.
Fawcett, B., Weber, Z. and Wilson, S. (2012) International Perspectives on Mental Health: Critical Issues across the Lifespan, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ferguson, I. (2007) ‘Increasing user choice or privatizing risk: the antimonies of personalization’, British Journal of Social Work, 37, 3, 387403.
Fernandez, J.-L., Snell, T. and Wistow, G. (2013) Changes in the Patterns of Social Care Provision in England: 2005/6 to 2012/13, London: PSSRU/LSE.
Forder, J., Jones, K., Glendinning, C., Caiels, J., Welch, E., Baxter, K., Davidson, J., Windle, K., Irvine, A., King, D. and Dolan, P. (2012) Evaluation of the Personal Health Budget Pilot Programme, London: Department of Health.
Glendinning, C., Halliwell, S., Jacobs, S., Rummery, K. and Tyer, J. (2000) ‘New kinds of care, new kinds of relationships: how purchasing affects relationships in giving and receiving personal assistance’, Health and Social Care in the Community, 8, 3, 201–11.
Glendinning, C., Challis, D., Fernandez, J., Jacobs, S., Jones, K., Knapp, M., Manthorpe, J., Moran, N., Netten, A., Stevens, M. and Wilberforce, M. (2008) Evaluation of the Individual Budgets Pilot Programme, York: Social Policy Research Unit.
Graty, C. (2008) ‘Cafe culture’, Living with Dementia, July.
Guy, M. E., Newman, M. A. and Mastraci, S. H. (2008) Emotional Labor: Putting the Service in Public Service, Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.
Hatton, C. and Waters, J. (2013) National Personal Budgets Survey 2013: Summary of Main Findings and Next Steps, London: In Control/Lancaster University/TLAP.
Herod, A., Rainnie, A. and McGrath-Champ, S. (2007) ‘Working space: why incorporating the geographical is central to theorizing work and employment practices’, Work, Economy and Society, 21, 2, 247–64.
Himmelweit, S. (1999) ‘Caring labor’, Annals, AAPSS, 561, 1, 2738.
HM Government (2007) Putting People First: A Shared Vision and Commitment to the Transformation of Adult Social Care, London: HM Government.
Hochshild, A. R. (1983) The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, Berkley, CA: University of California Press.
Hough, J. and Rice, B. (2010) Providing Personalised Support to Rough Sleepers, London: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Houston, S. (2010) ‘Beyond homo economicus: recognition, self-realization and social work’, British Journal of Social Work, 40, 3, 841–57.
Hudson, B. (2009) ‘Captives of bureaucracy’, Community Care, 9 April, 30–1.
Jones, K., Welch, E., Caiels, J., Windle, K., Forder, J., Davidson, J., Dolan, P., Glendinning, C., Irvine, A. and King, D. (2010) Experiences of Implementing Personal Health Budgets: 2nd Interim Report, PSSRU Discussion Article 2747/2, Canterbury: University of Kent.
Leadbeater, C., Bartlett, J. and Gallagher, N. (2008) Making It Personal, London: Demos.
Leece, J. (2010) ‘Paying the piper and calling the tune: power and the direct payment relationship’, British Journal of Social Work, 40, 1, 188–206.
Leece, J. and Leece, D. (2011) ‘Personalisation: perceptions of the role of social work in a world of brokers and budgets’, British Journal of Social Work, 41, 2, 204–23.
Leece, J. and Peace, S. (2010) ‘Developing new understandings of independence and autonomy in the personalised relationship’, British Journal of Social Work, 40, 6, 1847–65.
Lloyd, L. (2010) ‘The individual in social care: the ethics of care and the “personalisation agenda” in services for older people in England’, Ethics and Social Welfare, 4, 2, 188200.
Lymbery, M. (2010) ‘A new vision for adult social care? Continuities and change in the care of older people’, Critical Social Policy, 30, 1, 526.
Lymbery, M. (2012) ‘Social work and personalisation’, British Journal of Social Work, 42, 4, 783–92.
Lymbery, M. and Postle, K. (2010) ‘Social work in the context of adult social care in England and the resultant implications for social work education’, British Journal of Social Work, 38, 7, 2502–22.
Massey, D. (1984) Spatial Divisions of Labour: Social Structures and the Geography of Production, London: Macmillan.
Massey, D. (2005) For Space, London: Sage.
Mastracci, S. H., Newman, M. A. and Guy, M. E. (2010) ‘Emotional labor: why and how to teach it’, Journal of Public Affairs Education, 16, 2, 123–41.
Mencap (2012) Stuck at Home: The Impact of Day Service Cuts on People with a Learning Disability, London: Mencap.
Menzies, I. (1960) ‘A case-study in the functioning of social systems as a defence against anxiety: a report on a study of the nursing service of a general hospital’, Human Relations, 13, 2, 95121.
Milligan, C. (2000) ‘“Bearing the burden”: towards a restructured geography of caring’, Area, 32, 1, 1958.
Milligan, C. (2009) There's no Place like Home: Place and Care in an Ageing Society, London: Ashgate.
Mitchell, W., Brooks, J. and Glendinning, C. (2013) ‘Involving carers in the personalisation of adult social care’, Social Policy in Challenging Times, Social Policy Association Annual Conference, 9–11 July, University of Sheffield.
Mol, A. (2008) The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice, London: Routledge.
Mullin, A. (2011) ‘Gratitude and caring labor’, Ethics and Social Welfare, 5, 2, 110–22.
Needham, C. (2007) The Reform of Public Services under New Labour: Narratives of Consumerism, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Needham, C. (2011) Personalising Public Services: Understanding the Personalisation Narrative, Bristol: The Policy Press.
Needham, C. (2013) ‘Personalized commissioning, public spaces: the limits of the market in english social care services’, BMC Health Services Research,13, 1, S5.
Needham, C. (2014) ‘Personalisation: from day centres to community hubs?’, Critical Social Policy, 34, 1, 4765.
Parr, H. (2000) ‘Interpreting the “hidden social geographies” of mental health: ethnographies of inclusion and exclusion in semi-institutional places’, Health and Place, 6, 3, 225–37.
Pratesi, A. (2011) ‘The productivity of care: contextualizing care in situated interaction and shedding light on its latent purposes’, Ethics and Social Welfare, 5, 2, 123–37.
Roulstone, A. and Morgan, H. (2009) ‘Neo-liberal individualism or self-directed support: are we all speaking the same language on modernising adult social care?’, Social Policy and Society, 8, 3, 333–45.
Rummery, K. (2011) ‘A comparative analysis of personalisation: balancing an ethic of care with user empowerment’, Ethics and Social Welfare, 5, 2, 138–52.
Sawbridge, Y. and Hewison, A. (2011) Time to Care? Responding to Concerns about Poor Nursing Care, Birmingham: Health Services Management Centre.
Scourfield, P. (2007) ‘Social care and the modern citizen: client, consumer, service user, manager and entrepreneur’, British Journal of Social Work, 37, 1, 107–22.
Scourfield, P. (2010) ‘Going for brokerage: a task of independent support or social work?’, British Journal of Social Work, 40, 3, 858–77.
Sevenhuijsen, S. (1998) Citizenship and the Ethics of Care: Feminist Considerations of Justice, Morality and Politics, London: Routledge.
Slasberg, C. and Hatton, C. (2011) ‘Personalization – are personal budgets improving outcomes?’, Community Care, 30 September.
Slasberg, C., Beresford, P. and Schofield, P. (2012a) ‘Can personal budgets really deliver better outcome for all at no cost? Reviewing the evidence, costs and quality’, Disability and Society, 27, 7, 1029–34.
Slasberg, C., Beresford, P. and Schofield, P. (2012b) ‘How self directed support is failing to deliver personal budgets and personalisation’, Research, Policy and Planning, 29, 3, 161–77.
Smith, P. (1992) The Emotional Labour of Nursing, Basingstoke: Macmillan Education.
Sowerby, D. (2010) ‘What sort of helping relationships are needed to make personalisation happen and how can organisations be developed to support this?’, Journal of Social Work Practice, 24, 3, 269–82.
Spandler, H. (2004) ‘Friend or foe? Towards a critical assessment of direct payments’, Critical Social Policy, 24, 2, 187209.
Stephens, L. and Michaelson, J. (2013) Buying Things Together, London: HACT.
Sudbery, J. (2002) ‘Key features of therapeutic social work: the use of relationship’, Journal of Social Work Practice: Psychotherapeutic Approaches in Health, Welfare and the Community, 16, 2, 149–62.
Trevithick, P. (2003) ‘Effective relationship-based practice: a theoretical exploration’, Journal of Social Work Practice, 17, 2, 163–76.
Tronto, J. C. (1993) Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care, New York: Routledge.
Tronto, J. (2010) ‘Creating caring institutions: politics, plurality and purpose’, Ethics and Social Welfare, 4, 2, 158–71.
Twigg, J. (2000) Bathing: The Body and Community Care, London: Routledge.
Ungerson, C. (1997) ‘Social politics and the commodification of care’, Social Politics, 4, 3, 362–81.
West, K. (2013) ‘The grip of personalization in adult social care: between managerial domination and fantasy’, Critical Social Policy, 33, 4, 638–57.
Williams, B. And Tyson, A. (2010) ‘Self-direction, place and community – re-discovering the emotional depths: a conversation with social workers in a London borough’, Journal of Social Work Practice, 24, 3, 319–33.
Williams, F. (2010) ‘Review article. Migration and care: themes, concepts and challenges’, Social Policy and Society, 9, 3, 385–96.
Williams, V., Porter, S. and Marriott, A. (2013) ‘Your life, your choice: support planning led by disabled people's organisations’, British Journal of Social Work, doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct005.
Yanow, D. (2000) Conducting Interpretive Policy Analysis, London: Sage.
Yeandle, S. and Steill, B. (2007) ‘Issues in the development of the direct payment scheme for older people in England’, in Ungerson, C. and Yeandle, S. (eds.), Cash for Care in Developed Welfare States, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 104–36.
Yeatman, A. (2009) Individualization and the Delivery of Welfare Services: Contestation and Complexity, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Social Policy and Society
  • ISSN: 1474-7464
  • EISSN: 1475-3073
  • URL: /core/journals/social-policy-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed