How will social workers cope with the new world of individual budgets? David Westlake (pictured) has found that staff are looking forward to change
Personalisation is seen by many as the future of social care. People with disabilities will have clearly defined individualised budgets and a range of “pick and mix” services from which to compile a flexible and responsive support plan. Personalisation’s ultimate goal is for individuals to self assess their needs and then commission and control their own support services.
The impact on the social care workforce could be immense and the management and support of the social work and care management teams will change radically.
So how do we motivate, and support social workers through these changes which some may see as a threat to their role within social care?
Here at Wigan we have been developing an individualised budget scheme with our under-65s service users. We have taken a proactive approach to ensuring that all social workers are not only aware of the approach that will be required, but are trained so they can respond effectively and enthusiastically to carers and users.
This process began with the initial planning for individualised budgets. Any individualised budgets scheme is only going to be successful if you allocate enough money to purchase the right level of services. The initial work involved getting a group of social workers together to map out the care needs of 100 users using a resource allocation questionnaire. This work helped us talk to social workers about the process, the benefits of individualised budgets and the role they could play in not only developing this system but also in their future involvement with people on an individual budget.
The enthusiasm generated by these planning sessions immediately brought forward several professional advocates for individual budgets who were able to talk positively about the approach and looked forward to the new challenges ahead.
As this work developed, the personalised agenda became a standing item in team meetings. We were able to feed back on the work within Wigan and also within other local authorities.
The changing role of the social worker was discussed, as was the support that people who had individualised budgets would need. A menu of services was produced along with a list of associated costs which would make it possible to “pick and mix” a care package. Training was provided on various tools for person-centred planning.
While recognising that social workers would not always be in a position to act as facilitator in the planning, workers need to have the requisite skills so they can offer it as an optional service.
Rather than seeing the idea of clients and carers producing a support plan as a threat, social workers accepted it as an opportunity not only to empower users, but also to give them more space within their caseloads to engage with people who wanted the support of a social worker. It was hoped that this would allow social workers more time with cases that required intensive support, such as dealing with abuse investigations or having time to work with individuals.
We have now launched our scheme and the self-assurance and enthusiasm that social workers are able to demonstrate around individual budgets is giving users and carers the confidence that this is an approach that is not only beneficial to them, but is also totally endorsed and understood by professionals.
David Westlake is team manager learning disabilities, Wigan Council
Community Care is running a conference on Implementing Personalised Care in Adult Services on 22 April. For details phone 020 7347 3573
This article appeared in the 17 April issue under the headline “We’ve had an enthusiastic response to personalisation”