How service users conceptualise their personal support services is under researched, even though this understanding is important for responsive policy development and service implementation. This paper tests the proposition that service users understand formal support in three ways: support is a complement to their other arrangements, an intrusion into their personal life and a right. These three concepts were identified using discourse analysis in a Swedish study of older people wanting in-home support services. To test generalisability of these concepts, they were applied to data from an Australian study of people using disability personal support. The analysis found that the three concepts were core to people's views of their support, although the construction of the concepts differed in the two countries. Service users in Sweden asserted their right to services more forcefully than those in Australia, and they had higher expectations that their support needs would be met. These differences reflect the impact of each country's social policy environment on service users' expectations. The analysis suggests that service users and their families want to control their formal support arrangements to complement their informal care and their life preferences and to minimise the intrusive aspects of formal support. The findings imply that the three concepts have utility for theorising service users' perspectives, informing policy and developing implementation strategies which enhance peoples' quality of life.