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Normative puzzles for local government: Managing the introduction of single‐handed care in England

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Leigh Rooney, Professor Tim Rapley, Dr Phillip Whitehead



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


A crisis in social care is apparent across the developed world as ageing populations put unprecedented demand on understaffed social care workforces. A recent popular response to this ‘care crisis’ within the UK involves the ‘innovation’ of single-handed care (SHC). SHC involves a care package with two or more homecare workers being reduced to one worker using advanced equipment and new moving and handling techniques. In this article, we explore how SHC is rendered in 245 documents from 52 local authorities in England. Using Actor Network Theory as an interpretative lens, we suggest documents attempt to satisfy three ‘duties of care’: to the individual wellbeing of citizens, morally and fiscally to the collective and to innovation. Each appeal to different stakeholder groups necessary for SHC to work, but the combination of duties can pose problems in enabling coherent stories of SHC. Duties can be kept apart in different documents, but at times they must be brought together in certain textual spaces to enact SHC as a coherent enterprise. Here, the potential tensions that emerge are routinely orientated to as (merely) problems of process that can and should be managed in and through a more refined approach to change management. Leigh Rooney, Edwardson Building, Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 5PL, UK.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rooney L, Rapley T, Whitehead PJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sociology of Health & Illness

Year: 2023

Volume: 45

Issue: 4

Pages: 718-733

Print publication date: 01/05/2023

Online publication date: 28/01/2023

Acceptance date: 10/01/2023

Date deposited: 06/02/2023

ISSN (print): 0141-9889

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9566

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.13618


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