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Personalisation was oversold, time to scale it back

blair-mcpherson-100.jpgby Blair McPherson

It has been the buzz word in social work and adult social care for at least the last three years. Personalisation was to be the vehicle for transforming Adult Social Services. The idea was simple enough - just give people who had a disability money to buy their own support services rather than have a whole industry around telling people what they could have from a very limited “take it or leave it” local authority list.

The news that a recent survey has found that social workers believe Personalisation will fail and that only a minority believe service users will benefit from individual budgets is hardly a big surprise.

Personalisation was never championed by social workers but by service user groups, politicians and senior managers. It was always in danger of over promising and under delivering all the more so now it is finance driven rather than practise led. The brave thing to do would be to retain it as an option but recognise it has been oversold and scale the whole thing back.


In reality this is what is likely to happen but not likely to be ever stated. Personalisation fits with the Tory party ideology on choice and control and it shifts service away from the public sector but giving people the money isn’t very attractive when budgets are being cut and what you’re likely to be given isn’t likely to buy you what you need never mind what you want. So targets for personalisation are likely to be quietly dropped, which is how government indicates to senior managers and local politicians that they have lost interest and moved on to something else.

Blair McPherson is author of People management in a harsh financial climate and Equipping managers for an uncertain future both published by

About Simeon Brody

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6 Responses to Personalisation was oversold, time to scale it back

  1. Elaine 12 April , 2013 at 1:02 am #

    So in other words? Go back just 5 years even, back to the days of the ‘gift’ of services this is what you can have ,be greatfull….I think not, would he accept it, no, so why would anyone else? He needs to speak to those who have experienced choice and control, the very people this is all about. Surveys can be easily be misrepresented. If some and certainly not all, Care Managers believe that personalisation cannot work, then they have not had the right support, training or experience of meeting someone for whom it works, thousands of people are in a far better place than they were, experiencing outcomes which impact far widely than ‘just’ the disabled person, reducing the need for expensive interventions when things go wrong, because the support was not tailored correctly, a one size fits all approach. It is not for everyone, granted however choice and control over your own daily life should be a right for all. Just because there is a disability in the ‘mix’, a complication and inconvenience for the directorate who are used to tick boxes and systems should not mean it isn’t going to work.

  2. Pippa Harris 12 April , 2013 at 1:02 am #

    Yet another commentary that seems to be lacking sound analysis. Mr McPherson tells us that personalisation was only wanted by the people who live the life, the policy makers and Senior managers, and that therefore it was somehow over promising.

    Think that gives food for thought about where barriers may actually have been put in the way and whose agendas may have been served. As funds are now to be cut back so severely, surely the more of the scarce resource that can go directly to the people who need it rather than the machine that sometimes confines it, the better.

    Personalisation was and is great news for the people who need what it can give so please step aside and let’s move on to the ‘can do’.

  3. LynnJJ 12 April , 2013 at 1:02 am #

    Mr McPhearson – as a social worker and more importantly as a mum and a sister I am appalled by your comment. After watching Panorama on Tuesday night i more firmly than ever beleive that more power and control has to sit with the people who care most about getting it right.
    Personalisation has not been championed by many social workers because it is a return to real social work where we cannot hide behind paperwork and ‘panel’ we have to support real community connection and citizenship which is the only thing that will ensure that my daughter and sister who are not vulnerable as a result of their impairments but are made vulnerable when decision making, money and control sit too far away from them.
    It is now time more than ever before to push forward and the most humane, sensible and cost effect use of public money.
    Self Directed support is how people who don’t have to access public services for health and social care think it works anyway and so it should.
    Do not deny my daughter and sister the life they want and deserve