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The roles of friends and neighbours in providing support for older people

Most published research on informal care for older people focuses on the support provided by relatives. The role of non-kin carers can, however, also be significant in supporting older people in their own homes. In this paper, we report the findings from an exploratory study of the support provided by friends and neighbours who are the main carers of frail older people. It draws on interviews with an opportunistic sample of friends, neighbours and older people, which explored their views about the support arrangements, the reasons why help was provided and any difficulties experienced. Several friends and neighbours provided intensive and frequent help, and some played a key role in co-ordinating other services. One of the main forms of direct support related to older people's quality of life, at a broader level than the practical help provided by statutory services. The flexibility of such support, and the friends' and neighbours' concern for older people as individuals, were particularly important to the people they helped. Nevertheless, such help was not provided without costs to the carers. The study highlights the need for policy-makers and practitioners not to take help from friends and neighbours for granted and, in line with the White Paper Modernising Social Services, to provide the support services they need.

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Ageing & Society

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