Before exploring policy developments and changes in relation to social care, it is worth considering a definition of social care. For the purposes of this chapter social care relates to ‘caring support’ (as distinct from health care – though this is a very precarious distinction) received by various service user or client groups – children, older people, children and adults with physical and/or learning disabilities, children and adults with mental health problems. This care may be provided in a variety of ways or settings: in residential homes, in day centres or (increasingly) in people’s own homes. Such care may be provided by local authorities (though this is decreasingly the case) or by the independent sector (private and voluntary sector agencies). As we will explore in this chapter, the last 15 to 20 years has witnessed an emphasis on encouraging provision by the independent sector and a related reduction in local authority-provided social care. As has been discussed in other chapters (for example, Chapter 6) local authorities have been encouraged to be enablers or purchasers of services rather than direct service providers. This holds for certain aspects of social care probably as much as if not more than it does for other areas of social policy. In addition, there is a policy imperative for service users to be able to decide on what care and assistance they want to be provided and how and by whom that care would be provided.