Transforming care: Provision, quality and inequalities in late life
International conference at the Danish National Centre for Social Research (SFI), Copenhagen, 21-23 June 2010

The second Transforming care conference focussing on elder care was held in June 2010 in Copenhagen and attracted 110 participants from all over the world.

The overall theme this year was provision, quality and inequalities in later life. Newly-defined care policy designs, reorganisation of care policy approaches as well as measures to support informal family care have changed considerably patterns of elder care provision and the situation of carers. The restructurings have emerged against the background of extension and restriction of public support framed by fundamental criticism of the welfare state and persistent economic constraints. They are developing embedded in an increasing process of migration, challenging prevalent elder care policy approaches.

The 69 papers presented all dealt with these issues. General conclusions were that elder care is undergoing a transformation towards marketisation and familialisation related to individualisation and user choice.
The trends can be found in all countries compared – but of course in a different shape. E.g. with the key word “user choice” the key note speaker Gabriella Meagher revealed different normative perspectives within the transformation processes. She distinguished a neo-liberal perspective and a human rights perspective. From the perspective of findings in Continental and Southern European countries we have to add a family-oriented perspective to the key word user choice.

From the perspective of the users, “user choice” can be related to processes of marketisation and familialisation related to different types of care provision. In contrast, user choice can also be related to social or citizenship rights and the goal to secure individually adapted care provision. The research findings discussed in the course of the conference revealed clearly the limits of the user orientation within the framework of cost containment policies, marketisation and familialisation. The choices offered within the framework do not correspond with the range of choices preferred by older adults or their informal, family carers.

From the perspective of formal carers, processes of marketisation and familialisation are clearly related to a devaluation of care work and processes of deprofessionalisation. The efforts to increase qualification levels of carers, which can be found in some countries, are not related to an improvement of working-conditions and the employment situation. In addition, in some countries an informalisation of care work – paid care work done by migrant carers within the family context can be seen. From this perspective there is a risk that with the framing of user choice, difficult transitions from the carer’s perspective receive less focus.

For more information on the conference papers, see

The conference was jointly organised by SFI – The Danish National Centre for Social Research in Copenhagen (Senior researcher Tine Rostgaard), the Research Centre for ‘Ageing and Society’ at the University of Vechta (Prof. Hildegaard Theobald) and University of Hamburg (Prof. Birgit Phau-Effinger).

The following organisations and research networks financially supported the conference: Reassessing the Nordic Welfare Model (REASSESS under Nordic Council,, SFI – The Danish National Centre for Social Research, University of Hamburg and the University of Vechta.

The conference is co-financed by REASSESS, SFI - The Danish National Centre for Social Research, University of Hamborg and University of Vechta