Personalisation ‘tsar’ Jeff Jerome discusses his role

Personalisation is still in its infancy, with many councils still pondering how everything from individual budgets to market development will work in practice.

So you have to feel sympathy for Jeff Jerome (pictured), recently appointed as the first national director for social care transformation. He’s the man who will have to work out how to put the Putting People First concordat into practice – a nationally agreed vision of social care that is to be applied by local authorities, utilising the regional frameworks of both government and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, and working with other bodies such as the Improvement and Development Agency. Added to all that, he doesn’t have any powers to get things moving.

If he’s intimidated by the task, Jerome hides it well. Instead, there’s a solid grasp of detail on show, that’s backed by an underlying belief in the service user-led philosophy of the changes.

“People know the direction, but they are not always clear about who’s doing what, so one of the first things to do is pull together the various players,” says Jerome.

Dual responsibilities

Jerome’s post was created to lead local government’s contribution to personalisation in England, and his time will be split between the Local Government Association and Department of Health. Before the job properly begins in September, Jerome is serving out his term as director of adult and community services in the London Borough of Richmond.

He has also served with several national initiatives, and is the co-chair of the Adass disability network, though this is likely to end when he takes up his new role.

This mixed experience has left him well-armed to sort out who is supposed to be doing what – something he says is not yet clear. That includes Adass’s local government players and government regional structures, particularly the DH’s five newly-appointed deputy regional directors of social care leadership and local partnership – four more are still to be appointed – to correlate with the nine English regions.

Resource allocation

He says that market development and training would be best delivered at a regional level, while resource allocation and support planning are best done nationally. Other details will emerge from the forthcoming green paper on adult social care, such as deciding fairness and affordability, but he says making the system transparent is what is going to attract people into it.

This all bodes well for developing markets and setting new staff training arrangements. But what about the people who are going to work at the frontline of personalised social care? Jerome isn’t exactly setting out to placate worried workers: “There may well be jobs lost, if you mean social work jobs exactly as they are set out now but I prefer to think of it as jobs changed.”

He says that it is essential that existing social work roles will change: “There’s no doubt that care management and social work jobs will still be needed, but they will focus on different sorts of areas.”

Concern for those unsure about the forthcoming changes is batted away on the grounds that if personalisation can be shown to work practically and cost-effectively, then people will come on board.

“We need to work out where the social work role is essential and where it’s not. What personalisation is about is allowing users to have a slice of the public sector budget without always having to stay heavily involved with care managers and social workers if they don’t want to. What social workers need to do is focus on those people who need large amounts of support.”

Adapt or die

A similar adapt-or-die attitude is shown for the voluntary sector, as Jerome says that even though some voluntary providers are not comfortable with the idea of joining market mechanisms, “if you are an important part of the market, that has to be shown by people buying something from you.”

Jerome’s biggest challenge looks to be convincing refuseniks that they no longer have a choice but to engage with it. “The DH can set performance drivers, but local government is ultimately responsible to its own members. It’s important that they take the lead on this.”

Selected previous Community Care articles on personalisation:

Personalisation overview: threat or opportunity?

Devon changes

West Sussex self directed support

Oldham workforce transformation

Service users falling out with care workers

Essential reading on personalisation

Putting People First

This article was published in the 17 July issue of Community Care magazine under the headline ‘Let’s get personal’

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