British Society of Gerontology (BSG, 2020) Ethical issues in self-funded social care: co-producing knowledge with older people

HARG recently presented at the British Society of Gerontology (BSG) Conference on ‘Ageing and Sustainability in a Time of Transitionon’ 1st-3rd July 2020. HARG presented a digital piece on ‘Ethical issues in self-funded social care: co-producing knowledge with older people.’ Please see video, with more information found below.

Older people are the largest group of people who pay for their own care at home or in a care home setting.  Yet,  until recently, there been little research on self-funded care despite its significance to policy and practice.  Crucially, older people’s perspectives and experiences of self-funding are significantly overlooked and their voices are largely absent.  This three-year project, funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative award in Humanities and Social Sciences, is being conducted across  three sites and is led by Lizzie Ward (University of Brighton), with Denise Tanner (University of Birmingham) and Mo Ray (University of Lincoln).

The overarching aim of the project is to shine a light on the ethical dimensions of  self-funding by older people by bringing their experiences to the fore. Qualitative research has been carried out in our three research sites, Brighton and Hove, Solihull and Lincolnshire.   We have completed three interviews over an 18-month period with older people who, at the point of the first interview, were self-funding care at home. To gain a fuller picture of the perspectives and experiences of the range of actors involved in social care, we have also completed interviews and focus groups with unpaid carers and a range of key local stakeholders, including hands-on care workers.  At the time of writing, ethical approval has been given to undertake ‘postscript’ interviews with a sample of older participants, unpaid carers and stakeholders in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its potential impact on older people’s care and wider support arrangements.

The project is grounded in an ethics of care perspective and our approach to researching self-funding has been through co-production with older people, collaborations with local community partners who specialise in social care provision.  A series of knowledge exchange meetings brought emerging findings into dialogue with stakeholders, co-researchers and the academic team.  Co-research teams in each location are made up of older citizens with experience of, or interest in, social care.  The co-researchers have been involved in every stage of the project from its inception to sharing the findings.  Activities have included:

  • Initial development of the project focus and undertaking an early pilot study
  • Development of research materials
  • Identifying and recruiting potential research participants
  • Undertaking research interviews
  • Coding / analysis of interviews
  • Participation in knowledge exchange events and facilitating group discussion
  • Supporting additional activities such as, the Care-less artwork by Lindsay Seers (funded by the Wellcome Trust, Research Enrichment programme); conference participation (BSG, 2018; BSG, 2020; PEARL conference, Lincoln); and the creation of an audio based on some of our participants’ experiences for an ESRC Festival of Social Science event.
  • Supporting dissemination and research outputs including the development of two booklets for older people who pay for their own ccare.

In order to capture learning from the co-production process, an evaluation was built into the research design to be carried out by a researcher who was independent of the research team.  The evaluation has been ongoing over the past six months and some emerging findings are the focus of today’s presentation at the Averil Osborn Symposium.

We are now working on cross site analysis of findings as sharing findings and their implications for social care. Many of the planned activities we had in place have been cancelled in light of the pandemic.  We are finding new means and approaches to make sure that our research reaches a wide and relevant audience.  The implications of COVID-19 has also meant finding new ways of continuing to work with co-researchers.

If you would like to know more about the project, please visit our website:

Or, contact one our research teams:

Brighton and Hove

University of Brighton

Principal Investigator:  Lizzie Ward

Research Fellows:  Phil Locke and Sally Cornish (evaluation)

Community Research Fellow:  Bea Gahagan

Co-research team:  Bunty Bateman, Peta Brown, Marion Couldery, Jack Hazelgrove, Ursula Robson, Martin Tomlinson and Francis Tonks.



University of Birmingham

Lead investigator:  Denise Tanner

Research Fellow:  Nick Le Mesurier

Community Partner: Age UK, Solihull

Co-research team:  Sue Bennett, Judy Boyle, Bob Fernie, Trish Kelly, Alison Meakin, Colin Rickwood, Ian Thomson



University of Lincoln

Lead investigator:  Mo Ray

Research Fellow:  Phoebe Beedell

Community Partner: Evergreen Care, Stamford

Co-research team:  Kate Holley, Tony Gaskell, Sarah Tripp, Dave Bray, Lissie Wilkin, Mike Astill,  Ruth Kent, Steve McCarthy, Lucie Kew,