Trouble in direct payment personal assistance relationships

Tom Porter, Tom Shakespeare, Andrea Stockl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Personal assistance (PA) is a model of support where disabled people take control of recruiting, training and managing their support staff. Direct payment relationships and symbolism borrowed from the corporate world frame PA relationships as instrumentally focused and largely free from emotional entanglements. Yet complicating this picture is research showing that PA often involves moral dilemmas and interpersonal conflict. We report on data from 58 qualitative interviews with disabled people and PAs. Findings reveal PA to be an embedded form of work, which entails convergent interpretive schemes informed by the world of work and also by indeterminate social relations. Applying Emerson and Messinger’s micro-politics of trouble, we outline how trouble comes to be framed in either conflict-resonant or deviant-resonant ways. This focus upon the moral dimensions of trouble sheds light on the relational dynamics of this prevailing model of care and embedded work more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-647
Number of pages18
JournalWork, Employment & Society
Issue number4
Early online date12 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • care work
  • direct payments
  • disability
  • independent living
  • personal assistance

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