Former British Association of Social Workers chair Ray Jones has warned practitioners to beware the “pitfalls and potholes” of the personalisation of adult social care.
Jones told Community Care Live today that the government’s drive to put users in control of their care, notably through personal budgets, was “the right journey”.
But he said that without adequate funding and advocacy for users the new system could backfire.
Jones, now professor of social work at Kingston University, said: “People say personalisation will save money, but in some cases it will be more expensive.”
He warned inadequate funding “may limit users’ aspirations”, and added that the new system could also encourage “benign neglect” of older and disabled people.
“Staff might say ‘you’ve got the money, over to you’, and sit back and forget to give them support,” he added.
Jones, a former social services director, cited the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 as an example of how good policies had “unintended consequences”.
It was designed to allow more families to bring up their children at home, but the upshot was that investigations were stepped up and more children brought into care.
Fears that the personalisation drive was running ahead of the evidence were unfounded, according to independent social care consultant Melanie Henwood.
She cited “a significant volume of evidence” from the In Control pilots – under which users assess their needs and are given a personal budget to purchase care – and added: “We can wait for a very long time and keep on testing, or we could get on and do this.”
She also rejected the idea that personalisation was a “fashionable” political agenda that will soon fade away. Instead, Henwood predicted it would pave the way for further reforms across public services.
“It’s a long lasting change that’s not just a New Labour idea, it’s got support across the political spectrum,” she said.
Julia Winter, director of disabled people’s social enterprise the Liberation Partnership, who has used personal budgets for the past two years, said the “holistic” approach of the new system had improved the quality of her life “immeasurably”.