Personalisation and how Oldham’s workforce is transforming

how oldham did it

Personalisation represents a cultural shift happening across local authorities and a transformation within the social care profession. Its supporters hope it will lead to more flexibility and face-to-face contact with clients, rather than merely provide a range of services bought by block contracts.

With national and local politicians backing the personalisation agenda, it is now a matter of local authority chief executives persuading their staff to embrace change. Even if everyone does get on board, there are going to be some growing pains – care managers in particular are facing up to some difficult times ahead.

The revolution is already well under way. About £520m is being handed out to local authorities under the social care reform grant to help transform their social care services. Councils have the benefit of various pilots, such as the Care Services Improvement Partnership’s individual ­budgets project and In Control’s self-directed support scheme.

Oldham Council, which has been involved with both these pilots, has had a head start. Executive director of adult and community services Veronica Jackson says the authority began its transformation four years ago. “Getting involved with the pilots fitted very well into our local philosophy,” she says. “We’d already engaged the workforce in a considerable programme of change. We knew the demography of our population was changing, our citizens were getting older, with high deprivation in the borough.”

Although the process has been rocky at times, Oldham now has 60% of its service users on individual budgets, equating to about 1,700 people. “We have the largest number of individualised budgets nationally, and the picture is changing all the time,” Jackson says. “We decided that rather than picking out one service area, we worked across all areas. There’s been the same challenges in each, although it was easiest working with people with learning disabilities as staff already had a model of working with that way of delivering services.”

Oldham has just completed a review of care management services, a potential banana skin for any local authority. Jackson is circumspect about any mention of cuts. “I’m not expecting job losses as such in terms of our overall workforce, but there will be changes in what some staff will be doing,” she says. “We’ve had very good support from the unions, we work closely with them and take on board what they say.”

Ken Stapleton, manager of Oldham’s self-directed support team, has many years’ experience as a social worker and care manager. He has spent the past two years helping to transform the service. “We had a lot of resistance at first,” he says. “Care managers can struggle with the loss of power as the client gains control over their services. And with personalisation the role might wither.”

Stapleton has met 127 care managers across all services and despite their concerns says that everyone’s agreed on the “ethics” of the idea of more flexible delivery and allowing greater choice. “In many ways it’s getting back to real social work,” he says.

There is growing evidence of the benefits brought about by personalisation. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Jaynie Huxley became disabled as her bones became affected. She was introduced to individualised budgets in 2006, not long before receiving chemotherapy treatment. “I knew I was going to need more support,” she says. “I was able to increase the budget back up after I had agreed to reduce it. There’s that sort of trust that if you do reduce it, it’s not going to be taken away for ever.”

Using her budget for buying equipment is as important. While attending college, a fellow student refused to help Huxley lift her wheelchair from her car. “I couldn’t believe it, I just felt so humiliated,” she recalls. “I got back in my car and just cried. I didn’t want to be in that position again.”

She was able to talk to Oldham’s In Control panel to negotiate for her car to be adapted. “I became completely independent. I was able to purchase a floating trailer and I don’t need a personal assistant for going to college now.”

So, in the end, what can personalisation mean to service users? In the time she has left, Huxley wants to live to the full. “I wring it out of life, and it’s enabled me to do that.”

VERONICA JACKSON, executive director adult and community services for Oldham Council, passes on her tips for workforce transformation:

● Energising, leading and bringing the workforce along to ensure there is “critical sign-up” to the agenda.

● Ensure the finance director is fully involved from the beginning. “You can’t modernise anything unless you are very clear what the financial picture is. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for disaster.”

● Set out models of good practice to make sure that the outcomes for users and carers are very clear. “Training in itself isn’t enough, people have to want to change. When people can actually see the case studies and see what this has delivered, that’s what energises them.”

➔ More details from Ken Stapleton at Oldham Council on 0161 911 3868

➔ More on Oldham and In Control

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.