Our new guide to personalisation

We launch a new guide on personalisation today. Meanwhile, as reported in Community Care, Unison have surveyed social workers on personalisation with depressing,results. For too many front line staff, personalisation is still seen as a new set of processes and forms to introduce, rather than as a culture change. Respondents talked about extra forms, bureaucracy and stress. Some talked about having less time to spend with their clients or being replaced with less qualified staff. The views on personalisation were also coloured by the experience of cuts, which were felt to be already having a severe impact on delivering support of any kind. For some, personalisation and cuts were being introduced at the same time, so, unsurprisingly, were seen as two parts of the same agenda.

The survey suggests that whilst more workers now understand how the mechanisms (particularly Direct Payments) work, there is still a huge job to do to refocus us all onto the culture change. In many areas, it seems that the introduction of new mechanisms has actually got in the way of helping people to make informed choices from a wider range of options, rather than enabling it to happen. See the account in my previous entry, of people being denied an in-house Shared Lives service because it couldn’t be paid for via Direct Payments.

Many workers believe that people receive the same service as the would pre-personalisation, with too many restrictions on how money is spent on holidays and activities. It’s not surprising that there was so little enthusiasm for personalisation in the survey, when it was seen as adding to workloads and stress, but making little difference to choices.

It’s also very striking that very few workers think that service users and their families have been fully involved in making personalisation happen. This shows that too many areas have been coming at this from completely the wrong direction. Leadership figured very little in people’s assessment of what had helped to implement personalisation and these results should be a wake-up call for senior managers in many areas, who need to do much more to show leadership on personalisation and to do so partly by demonstrating their genuine commitment to handing over power to people who use services, their families and front line workers. This is not easy to do: now that we have a government going full steam ahead on the localism agenda, whilst also having to reduce the reach and extent of public services, public services leaders at every level from Minister down have to solve the conundrum of how to show leadership whilst devolving power (Myself and some colleagues wrote about this: see, Design for Life on our website).

Despite the depressing results of the survey, giving people control over how money is spent remains a vital part of delivering personalisation, but we have to find ways of doing that aren’t mechanised, or wrapped up in extra form filling.

Our latest contribution to that challenge is published today on our website: The Shared Life of my choice: a guide to personalisation and Shared Lives for providers and commissioners. It shows how to use the mechanisms of personalisation to fund Shared Lives, but more importantly it focuses on end results: is Shared Lives in your area helping people to make real choices and to live the lives they choose?

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