Few would quarrel with the personalisation policy’s goal of giving service users more control over their lives. It is a good fit with the consumerism that, like it or not, has begun to permeate public services.
But social care workers have sometimes found out the hard way that there can be a world of difference between an important principle and its implementation in practice.
Wirral is the latest council to announce plans to introduce personalisation through a major restructuring of adult social care. As is happening elsewhere, it will shift resources away from care management and assessment towards self-assessment, reablement and a refocusing of qualified social workers on working long-term with more complex cases.
In Wirral, it will also mean that the number of qualified social work posts will fall by 29, while the number of “vocationally qualified” social care posts will rise by 26.
This is worrying, particularly if it is replicated more widely as other councils adopt personalisation.
The public will not be well served by a systematic deskilling of social work, sacrificing professional judgement on the altar of user choice and control. Personalisation will be good for social work if it frees qualified staff to empower users by strengthening community networks and providing advocacy and advice. But it will be a disaster if it creates a breed of unqualified bureaucrats, more able to tick choice-denying boxes than support users to achieve the best quality of life open to them. Service users deserve better.