Social workers ‘frustrating’ personalisation agenda, say experts

Social workers and managers across England are still “frustrating” the roll-out of the personalisation agenda, a conference heard this week.

Although directors at the top level have bought into the agenda, concerns are being raised that a “hearts and minds” battle is still to be won on the frontline.

The issue was raised at the annual conference of In Control, the charity that has pioneered personalisation.

Paul Davies, assistant executive director for adult social care at Oldham Borough Council, said there were examples where people had “tried to frustrate” the process and this was “a more common experience than was right or proper”.

He said: “Some people don’t believe there’s any other way of delivering social care in the way it’s been handed down.” As such they did not always feel they had to participate in its “delivery in a whole-hearted sense”.

He added: “Are there people against individual choice and control? I can say there are because I’ve worked with them.”

Relinquishing control

His reaction has been echoed by Andrew Tyson, policy and communications lead for the charity In Control, who said part of the problem was in giving up control.

He said: “People want to do the right thing, but it’s quite difficult when we’ve been acculturated to doing things for people and running establishments for people.”

There are also issues around some authorities using local rules and regulations that mean service users’ lived experience fails to change when they switch from traditional care packages to personal budgets.

The concerns come despite the Putting People First personalisation agenda having been running for nearly two years in England.

As part of this all authorities have to meet a target of having 30% of social care users on personal budget by April 2011.

Attached to the personalisation agenda is a three-year social care reform grant worth £520m.

However, In Control thinks this is generally being used by councils to change systems rather than in ensuring social work managers can provide “real leadership” in personalisation.

In an interview with Community Care, Jeff Jerome – national director for social care transformation – said a “handful of authorities” were creating cause for concern in terms of meeting the 30% target and would need to “move very quickly” to achieve it.

But speaking during the In Control conference he said: “Overall I would say that two years in we are in a pretty good place. It was never likely this would be an agenda that would just happen.”

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