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Expectations of support among White British and Asian-Indian older people in Britain: the interdependence of formal and informal spheres

The discourse surrounding community care characterises informal support being superior to and preferred over formal sources of support, with this distinction buttressed by policy changes. There is a lack of understanding of the interdependence of both spheres of support. This article argues that an individual's experience and expectation of one type of support is often made in relation to his or her understanding, expectation and experience of other sources of support. There is also an urgent need to understand how these associations operate in a cross-cultural context as it is naïve to assume that normative expectations will remain constant when the relationship between family, state and other sources of support are unstable. This article reports on findings emerging from part of a Growing Older study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of Great Britain to explore the relationship between quality of life and the social networks and support of older people from different ethnic groups. Research involved the use of a questionnaire comprising closed- and open-ended questions. In addition, in-depth qualitative interviews covering the existence and nature of social networks and support, as well as perceptions and expectations of these, were also conducted. This article reports on data relating to a sample comprising seven White British men, 10 White British women, 12 Asian-Indian men, and nine Asian-Indian women aged 55 and over derived from the Family Resources Survey. Findings reveal that the high level of expectation for family support amongst Asian-Indian respondents coexists with a high level of expectation for state support and an acknowledgement that the ideal of family support may not always materialise. Amongst White British respondents, the high level of expectation for state support exists regardless of whether the respondent has satisfactory informal social networks. This expectation is commonly expressed in terms of rights and entitlement by White British respondents but not by Asian-Indians. Associated with this, Asian-Indian respondents display a consistently lower level of awareness and usage of a range of health and social care services. Regardless of the extent of current and past usage of services, however, respondents from both groups overwhelmingly indicate an expectation for the continued provision of such services as they would like to be able to use one or more of these at some stage.

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Health Soc Care Community

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