Personalisation ‘may require regulation of personal assistants’

Personalisation may require the regulation of personal assistants to ensure the protection of service users, a leading expert told Community Care LIVE yesterday.
Social care consultant Melanie Henwood said the “post-Baby P climate” had made practitioners and service users “terribly sensitive about risk” in the move towards personalisation.
Regulate PAs to address risks

“We need to look at regulating the personal assistant market as part of addressing risk,” she told the session on personalisation, while pointing to the importance of a “proportionate” response.

Personal assistants are people hired by direct payment or personal budget users to support them.

Last month’s adult social care workforce strategy revealed that the General Social Care Council would consult shortly on options for regulating personal assistants.

Strong social work support for mandatory registration

A Community Care survey of adult social workers last year showed very strong support for mandatory registration of PAs. However there are concerns in government and among adult services directors that this would limit choice for people using direct payments or personal budgets.

Also addressing yesterday’s Community Care LIVE session, Peter Beresford, professor of social policy at Brunel University and chair of service user organisation Shaping Our Lives, warned of social workers being replaced by “malleable” lower-qualified staff under personalisation.

There are a number of councils giving non-qualified staff responsibility for assessing service users with lower level needs as part of the implementation of personalisation.
Personalisation ‘not end of social work’

However, Henwood argued that personalisation would not mean the “end of social work,” saying it presented “huge opportunities” for the workforce, including new roles.
But she also acknowledged that many personal assistants lacked information and skills development, making it difficult to implement personalisation.
Beresford also highlighted the importance of getting service users to shape the development of personalisation, warning that there was a “growing gap” between policy and what was happening on the ground.
He said he had written to the chair of the Social Work Task Force, Moira Gibb, calling on her to invite contributions from adult care service users, as she has recently done for frontline social workers.

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