Letters to Community Care 25 February 2010

Personalisation: do councils get it?

I read, with interest, your article regarding the lack of details from councils on personal budgets (news, 11 February, p7). Our experiences at Just Services offers further food for thought as to councils’ readiness for personalisation.

As a third sector organisation, we welcomed the government’s personalisation agenda and prepared ourselves for the possible changes we may need to make. Among other things we run an online creative writing school for disabled people, (www.disabilitywrites.org.uk) originally funded through Arts Council England. We researched the possibilities of subscriptions funded by individuals using personal budgets, as well as the fit with the personalisation agenda and, from this, considered it a good fit with the agenda.

It provides choice, control, chances to learn and develop, along with the possibility for disabled people to gain income through writing. The site offers writing hints and tips, a writer’s forum, constructive feedback on writing and the chance to be published on the site. It offers the chance for non-disabled people to learn from the perspective of disabled people, including editors and publishers who may not have considered “reasonable adjustments” in this context. So far so good.

The barriers began once contacting local authorities. Some said they thought it was a great idea but they weren’t “anywhere near being able to offer disabled people these sort of opportunities”. Others said this “isn’t what personal budgets are for”. Some said they had to “consider if this was a good use of tax payers money” or it “wasn’t an assessed need”.

This begs the question, how will disabled people have confidence in the personalisation agenda and the use of personal budgets if councils have such poor understanding of it? If I, as another professional with knowledge of the “system”, faced such blatant disregard for the choices of disabled people, what chance a disabled person new to all this in getting through the maze?

Liz MacKenzie, Just Services

Authorities must talk to older people

The Audit Commission report Under Pressure: tackling the financial challenge for councils of an ageing population makes worrying reading (www.communitycare.co.uk/113828).

One of the things highlighted is that older people’s opinions are not being taken into account in plans to develop independent living options.

There are many organisations that are excellent at co-production with older people – so the good practice is already there.

Good communication with older people is absolutely crucial if you want to be sure that the products and services designed for their use actually work for them – this is practically a no-brainer but, according to the Audit Commission report, it is still only recognised by a few local authorities.

More information on Forster’s Age Agenda can be found by contacting Gillian Daines at gillian@forster.co.uk

Caroline Bernard, Forster for Change www.forster.co.uk

The better off are already paying extra

The row between Labour and the Conservatives about over funding elderly care is missing the point.

The debate focuses on a proposal to tax wealthier elderly people to raise funds for the care of those less well-off.

But the gap is already being filled by higher-paying care home residents. Local authorities allocate a certain amount of money for people without the means to pay for care themselves. But the government is simply not providing local councils with enough money to cover the costs.

So many homes are forced to charge wealthier clients more than the value of the care they receive to make up the funding gap.

It is very unfair on the people who have worked and saved hard all their lives for retirement to then see that money spent on someone else just because they too need care.

Nick Bruce, owner Nightingales Retirement Care, Bromley, Kent

Our very own dementia strategy

Last month the National Audit Office rightly said that the National Dementia Strategy has been long on objectives but short on delivery and they were right. Many care providers continue to offer their staff insufficient dementia specific training and fail to provide leadership in the area.

In August 2009 we appointed a quality development adviser for dementia. She has provided leadership and guidance at all levels of our organisation. Together we have developed our own plans that will allow us to meet the objectives set out in the National Dementia Strategy.

Our strategy will ensure that all staff receive the specialist training they need and the people are given personalised support. Building on our existing practices, the strategy will also enable people to tell us what they think about us and develop environments that are even more safe, secure and enabling.

Avril Evans, Divisional managing director for Older People, Craegmoor

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