Services must change to make personalisation real for ethnic minorities

There are many barriers preventing people from ethnic minorities enjoying the benefits of personalisation, writes Patrick Vernon


There are many barriers preventing people from ethnic minorities enjoying the benefits of personalisation, writes Patrick Vernon (pictured)

Personalisation should put service users at the centre of services.

However, the Afiya Trust has identified a number of barriers that need to be addressed to make this a reality for black and minority ethnic communities.

Staff often resist service users’ attempts to ask for personal budgets – and risk-averse attitudes remain. People with more acute mental health conditions, such as psychosis, may have particular difficulty in exercising choice and control.

There is also an issue about accessing personal budgets for ethnic minority communities who are too proud to arrange a social worker for an assessment.

There is a lot of confusion among ethnic minority service users about personalisation, including fears that their benefits and services will be cut or changed, while the marketing and promotion of personalisation is not accessible to all communities.

At the same time, health and social care cuts risk affecting the funding of ethnic minority-led organisations, thus reducing the supply of culturally relevant services for people to choose from.

Tackling this means taking action on a number of fronts.

Advocacy is crucial in supporting service users to use personal budgets. Service users, especially those who are most vulnerable, need support if they are to make their needs known.

There needs to be more awareness and information tailored to community groups. National and local social marketing campaigns need to be developed and rolled out with proper evaluation of their impact on ethnic minority communities. This could involve developing a network of community champions to promote personalisation within communities and feed back to commissioners.

Providers will have to find ways to adapt to the needs of service users and allow for creative and often non-standard modes of providing services. Service users, carers and their advocates should have a real role in the commissioning and evaluation processes. Commissioners should also ensure they support organisations led by ethnic minorities to survive in a personalised marketplace. Providers still need to undertake race equality and diversity training.

We believe that if social services follow these steps we can help ensure that personalisation is not only for the middle classes and the well-connected, but for all.

Patrick Vernon is chief executive of The Afiya Trust

Special report on social work and ethnic minorities

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This article is published in the 3 March 2011 edition of Community Care under the headline “Minorities are stranded atthe margins”

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