Future course of personalisation plotted

Adult social workers' roles should be more focused on service users in the most need to further the personalisation agenda, social care leaders have said.

Adult social workers’ roles should be more focused on  service users in the most need to further the personalisation agenda, social care leaders have said.

All publicly funded service users would receive personal budgets, with most taking these as direct payments, under a proposed “partnership agreement” published today, which charts a course for adult care in England beyond the end of the Putting People First programme in April 2011.

Think Local, Act Personal has been signed by 21 bodies including the Department of Health, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the NHS Confederation and the National Centre for Independent Living.

The agreement, launched at the National Children and Adult Services Conference, was designed to be published alongside the government’s new adult social care vision, but the latter has been delayed.

Today’s document said that Putting People First, launched in 2008, had led to uneven progress in personalisation and councils now faced the even greater challenge of significant public sector cuts, requiring ever greater efficiency.

As part of this, it said social workers should be focused on “areas that legally require local authority involvement, such as formal elements of assessment, review and authorising of support plans, or helping people in complex or risky situations”.

This process, designed to put users in charge of assessment and care management, has happened at some councils but the agreement endorsement its more widespread uptake, which could lead to reductions in the number of social workers employed by councils.

By calling for all publicly funded users to have a personal budget, the agreement goes well beyond the 30% milestone set under Putting People First for April 2011, though does not set a date for the new target.

It said direct payments should be the “preferred delivery model for most”; where personal budgets were managed by councils, users should be given “authentic” choice and not simply told the cost of their care.

It said personal budget holders should be given reasonable discretion on how they spend their money, and recommended that local partners consider combining health and social care funding along with crisis support and equipment money in people’s budgets, to avoid hospital admissions.

The agreement also promised greater integration of health and social care commissioning and resources. Sector heads pledged more help for carers and that assessment and allocation of resources would take a “whole family” approach.

It also laid out a vision for providers that would see greater use of smaller providers and care homes operating as community facilities.

Adass president Richard Jones said: “It endorses an approach which is about personal and locally based responses to care and support, involving citizens, communities, providers, councils and health partners in moving forward together.”

The 21 partners are seeking comments on the draft agreement and further endorsements before the 30 November, when they will formally set out how it will be implemented, taking into account the government’s vision for adult care.

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