National Care Forum head: Progress slow on personalisation

Personalisation will not be fully realised within the the three-year timeframe of Putting People First because neither enough local councils nor service providers are prepared for the change, a leading voice in the third sector has claimed.

Des Kelly, executive director of voluntary provider umbrella body the National Care Forum, said the concept had not gone far “beyond the rhetoric” and three years would not be “anything like enough to deliver what we need”.

Under Putting People First, councils in England must roll-out personal budgets, shift resources from acute to preventive services and improve information and advice on care to all users and carers from 2008-11.

Confusion over personalisation concept

Kelly said the lack of progress was partly because there is still a lot of confusion about what personalisation means, despite backing at the highest levels of central and local government and enthusiasm among some service user groups.

He said improving the situation would require far more partnership working between providers, commissioners and user group organisations.

Slow progress being made

In September, in an effort to force the pace of change, all English councils were sent a set of new standards laying out the personalisation “milestones” they should measure themselves against between now and 2011.

Speaking to Community Care last week David Behan, the director general of social care, said: “I’m delighted with the progress that has been made because people have made significant progress on extending individual budgets, but I’m impatient and I wish we could do more and faster.”

Kelly said he believed that just 20% of service providers had thought about personalisation and implications for the way they would deliver services in the future. A significant increase in the use of personal budgets is likely to have significant implications for providers as they move from block contracting with councils to having their services purchased directly by individuals.

Most service providers at a loss

Kelly added: “I would suggest that at least 15% of providers fall into the category of not having thought about it yet, and a few I expect are hoping they won’t have to do anything at all. And the vast majority – maybe 60% – are wondering what they should do.”

He quoted the results of a survey this year by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Local Government Association on councils’ progress in implementing Putting People First.

This found that 19 local authorities had systems in place for allocating personal budgets for all user groups and another 51 had systems in place for at least one client group.

Councils slow in making progress

Kelly said this meant that over half of councils had not made good progress and there was a “proportion who’ve hardly done anything at all”.

He added the end of the three-year programme would come during a “difficult financial climate”, amid anticipated public spending cuts, adding to the need for some realism.

This was echoed by Robert Droy, who is disabled and is team manager for the Southampton Centre for Independent Living.

Realism required

He said: “We need to be realistic with the local authorities, with the voluntary sector and the user-led organisations that this will be more like a 10-year programme than a three-year programme and [to] not to beat ourselves up about it [not meeting the deadline].”

The pair were speaking during the launch of a report on practical steps to implement personalisation by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations called Personalisation: Rhetoric to Reality.

This examines the role the voluntary sector can play in transforming services and the implications for the sector.

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