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Formal and Informal Long-Term Care in the Community: Interlocking or Incoherent Systems?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2018

London School of Economics – Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom email:
London School of Economics – Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom email:


Help with activities of daily living for people in the community is provided through formal services (public and private) and informal (often unpaid) care. This paper investigates how these systems interlock and who is at risk of unmet need. It begins by mapping differences between OECD countries in the balance between formal and informal care, before giving a detailed breakdown for the UK. New analysis of UK Family Resources Survey data for 2012/13 and 2013/14 suggests high levels of unmet need. We investigate who receives formal and informal care, and who receives neither, among the working-age and older populations. We find that while informal care fills some gaps left by the lack of availability of formal services (and vice versa), not all older or working-age disabled people are protected in these ways. Adults living alone and those with high but not the highest levels of difficulty are most likely to have unmet need. Means-tested public entitlements ameliorate but do not remove the increased risk among people in low-income households. The paper concludes that public policy needs to integrate its support for formal and informal modes of care, with particular attention to those groups most at risk of unmet need.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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