Don’t rush personalisation

For one person it can mean getting out for more fresh air, for another a choice over when to eat their evening meal – personalisation is different for each service user.

The government has already made clear that the move to more personalised adult social services will be a performance indicator for councils in England over the next three years.

For the personalisation agenda to be implemented successfully frontline social workers need to be ready to engage in the process and be fully equipped to deliver change. But the translation of policy into practical, workable solutions at the frontline can be difficult, so Community Care decided to find out how ready social workers were to deliver this change. As you will see in the following pages, much needs to be done.

Confusing terminology

Many of you told us that you needed more information and training in how to deliver more “choice and control”. The terminology surrounding personalisation is confusing and it is clear that the nuances of the ways more service user choice can be achieved have not been communicated well to frontline staff. These findings are supported by the review of the individual budget pilots, which calls for more training for staff on the options surrounding personalised care.

Social workers are concerned about their jobs in part because they do not have a clear idea of what personalisation will mean in practice and whether more unqualified staff will take on brokerage roles, meaning less input for qualified social workers.

This lack of knowledge has also left social workers concerned about safeguarding adults in vulnerable situations. This also emerges as a concern in the IB pilots with fears that giving service users control of their care funds would leave them open to exploitation. This means that a significant number of respondents to our survey are unsure whether personalisation is the right way forward.

Expelling doubts

Given the right information and leadership, these doubts may be expelled. Our results show that many staff still see personalisation as an all-or-nothing agenda – ie, moving as many people as possible to direct payments to cut costs.

What is needed now is more practical, frontline-focused information and training. Local authorities need to make an effort to outline their visions for personalisation and to take best practice from the pilots. Only then will staff in adult services feel more confident about their jobs, new ways of managing risk and their role of helping and supporting clients to gain greater choice and control.

This article is published in the 23 October 2008 edition of Community Care under the headline “Don’t rush personalisation”

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