Ageing and Society


Care relationships, quality of care and migrant workers caring for older people


a1 Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland.

a2 Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.


Migrant care workers make a substantial contribution to older adult care in Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK). However, little is known about the relational aspects of care involving migrant care workers and older people. Given that the care relationship is closely linked to quality of care, and that the Irish and UK sectors are increasingly restricted by economic austerity measures, this lack of information is a concern for care practice and policy. Our paper explores the relationship between migrant care workers and older people in Ireland and the UK and draws on data collected in both countries, including focus groups with older people (N = 41), interviews with migrant care workers (N = 90) and data from a survey of and interviews with employers. The findings illustrate the complexity of the migrant care worker–older person relationship; the prevalence of need orientated, friendship and familial-like, reciprocal, and discriminatory interlinking themes; and the role of individual, structural and temporal factors in shaping these relationships.

(Accepted December 16 2011)

(Online publication February 23 2012)


  • older people;
  • migrant care workers;
  • care relationship;
  • quality of care


c1 Address for correspondence: Kieran Walsh, Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. E-mail: