The SIgN project - Meeting the information needs of self-funders

Kate Baxter Completed   2017


Research evidence about people who pay for their social care – self-funders – is limited. Estimates of the number of self-funders in England vary, but there is agreement that numbers are increasing as a result of population ageing and rising eligibility thresholds for local authority-funded care. The importance of self-funders to local authorities is also increasing, in part due to the Care Act 2014 which stipulated, amongst other things, that local authorities must establish and maintain services to provide information and advice on care and support to all residents, however they are funded.


This study focussed on self-funders (people who use their own funds to pay for social care). It explored the experiences of self-funders in seeking information about care and support, and of practitioners in providing information. It also created a leaflet and short film as resources to assist self-funders and others starting to search for care for the first time.


Forty interviews with self-funders or their relatives between 2015 and 2016 explored their experiences of seeking information about care at home or in a care home, and 19 practitioners (including local council social workers and ‘first contact’ advisors, voluntary organisation advisors, care providers and GPs) were interviewed about their experiences of being asked for and providing information.

In addition, senior managers from five local authorities gave a strategic perspective. Study participants attended workshops (one for self-funders/their relatives and one for practitioners) to help design the short film and leaflet.


  • Information about social care and support needs to be available in one place to help self-funders
  • Self-funders currently feel lost and confused when searching for care information
  • Clearer guidance is needed for self-funders to know that practitioners are available to discuss their needs and recommend appropriate types of support that are available to them, even though they cannot recommend named providers
  • Local councils and social workers need more time to provide information on care and care options to self-funders
  • Increasing public awareness of adult social care is a key priority.


Getting informed, getting prepared: first steps to finding care and support for older people is a leaflet aimed at people starting to look for information about care and support for older people.

Finding care and support for older people is a short film in which a study participant talks about her experiences of finding information about care for her husband. The film indicates steps that others might take to find the information they need.

The website contains the leaflet (also in text only, large print and audio versions), and the film (with and without subtitles).

Older self-funders and their information needs
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Pubs page