Letters to Community Care 1 October 2009

It is disappointing to read that the focus for measuring success in implementing Putting People First and the personalisation agenda continues to be numbers of people receiving personal budgets (news,17 September).

Working in a person-centred way and enabling service users to have choice and control is not all about personal budgets (PBs). They are important but are not suitable for everyone. The market is still adjusting to individuals commissioning their own care and the mechanics for enabling people to access personal budgets are not as clear as they could be in some councils. Are social workers going to be blamed if the target of 30% of service users being on a PB by 2011 is not met? Will they be given the time and information to discuss these issues with service users, such as when a hospital discharge is imminent and there is pressure to work fast?

Will service users be coerced into having PBs? Surely, part of the point of personalisation is to work with a person to assess their needs and work out together how those needs might be met and then to see if a PB would be a good means to that end?

The other milestones against which councils will be assessed – such as effective partnerships with service users – are appropriate, and should prompt some local authorities to get a move on.

The British Association of Social Workers believes social workers should be taking the lead in the delivery of Putting People First as we have the skills, knowledge, values and the desire to work in this way and are keen to lose the mechanistic, robotic ways of assessing need and allocating services that prevail in some areas.

Ruth Cartwright, BASW professional officer, England

The government’s decision to root its personalisation milestones for councils in personal budgets reveals a failure to acknowledge a growing awareness of their limitations.

Firstly, PBs will not deliver personalisation for anyone other than the small minority of people who can take the money and buy support outside of mainstream social care. Most people have no wish to go outside of mainstream services. They simply want them to do a better job. There is no evidence that personal budgets will do that.

Secondly, upfront allocations of resources are almost certainly unlawful. The recently published revised guidance for Fair Access to Care Services makes the point that the decision about allocations can only be made after assessment and when the person’s needs and risks are known. Formulas applied without regard to the assessment cannot do that. Thirdly, personal budgets are a boon to those politicians whose main interest is to cut spending.

It can only be hoped that councils understand that satisfying targets and bringing about real change are not the same thing, and commit to doing the work that will bring about real transformation for the majority, not just the few.

Colin Slasberg, Independent consultant, Harlow

Management fad invades probation

London Probation, along with most probation areas, is feverishly pursuing its need to become a trust by 2010, under the polite guise of the latest derivative management fad, known as Kaizen Blitz.

To this end, it has mandated daily workplace briefings, so that this performance mantra can be cascaded to all frontline staff – namely that achieving a range of non-negotiable organisational targets is a necessary precursor to being canonised a trust.

Napo had registered a dispute at the absence of consultation and the crude imposition of this initiative.

Stories abound of the naming and shaming of wayward practitioners, who might have opted to prioritise contact with service users over attendance at these meetings.

If we expended this level of energy on relationships with offenders maybe more observable change would follow and the “nameless dread” of missing a target would dissipate.

Mike Guilfoyle, Greater London Napo

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