Social workers were challenged to stop managing service users’ lives at Community Care Live yesterday, in a session which sparked a heated debate on the merits of the government’s personalisation agenda for adult care.
The challenge came from Simon Stevens, disability activist and Community Care columnist, who was answering concerns from an approved social worker that some people with mental health problems would not be able to cope with taking control of their care, to the potential detriment of their conditions.
Under the Department of Health’s Putting People First programme, councils in England must roll-out personal budgets, through which users can purchase their own services, from 2008-11.
Stevens said the vision of personalising services around users’ choices had existed for 30 years and that it was “time the honeymoon was over” and the sector implemented the policy.
Personalisation like Marmite
Jon Glasby, director of Birmingham University’s health services management centre, told delegates that the personalisation agenda was like Marmite – “you either love it or hate it” – and this was reflected in the session.
Sceptical delegates raised problems about the lack of staff consultation about the “revolutionary policy” and some claimed that in practice service users were being told what services to have and what agencies to use. There were also fears about means-testing and how personalisation could be used to cut services or off-load responsibilities onto service users and their families.
Real social work
Supporters of personalisation said they were able to build relationships with service users and see them thrive as they took greater control of their lives, and that the policy offered an opportunity for a return to “real social work”.
This point was backed by Glasby, a former social worker turned academic, who said that some care managers had told him that personalisation “put the social into social work”.
What do you think about the personalisation agenda? Have your say on CareSpace, Community Care’s online discussion forum.
Birmingham University’s health services management centre