Welsh vision for personalisation ‘still confusing’

Social care leaders are confused over the Welsh government's rejection of what it calls the "market-led model" of "personalisation" in favour of one based on "citizen control".

Social care leaders are confused over the Welsh government’s rejection of what it calls the “market-led model” of “personalisation” in favour of one based on “citizen control”.

The idea, which implicitly rejects the approach to personalisation taken in England, was set out in the Welsh government’s 10-year plan for social services, published last month.

It said the government wanted to create “citizen-centred services”, with service users more involved in running services and access to direct payments for all who want them. It distanced itself from the term “personalisation” because it had become “too closely associated with a market-led model of consumer choice”.

This would mean a different approach to that taken in England, where councils have been set a target of having all service users on personal budgets by 2013, and are expected to promote a diverse marketplace of services for users to choose from. The term personal budgets is not used in the Welsh government’s plan.

However, Welsh social services directors, the Welsh Local Government Association and the service user advocacy group Disability Wales have admitted they are in the dark as to precisely what the Welsh government means.

Beverlea Frowen, director for social services and health improvement at the Welsh Local Government Association, said the WLGA was being funded by the Welsh government to develop a one-year national programme on self-directed support that will draw on examples of innovation in Wales. However, she admitted she was not totally sure what the government’s vision entailed.

“There’s always been a healthy debate between directors and the assembly [about personalisation], which has been driven by a political ideology,” said Jon Skone, director for social care and housing at Pembrokeshire Council. “There’s a bit of the Labour government here that didn’t like the consumerist element of it. I’m not sure what they mean by it.”

Social care consultant and former UK Department of Health finance chief John Bolton, who has visited every Welsh local authority to identify good practice for a forthcoming report, described the Welsh government’s approach as applying personalisation to the Welsh context.

This meant there would not be personal budgets for all by 2013, and that private sector care providers would have to fit in with a public sector ethos.

“That’s very different from England and I guess more of what we have in Wales is a greater combination with the voluntary sector,” he added.

In a statement explaining its approach, the Welsh government said: “We want to give individuals control and that may well be through having control over the money to buy their services; but we also want people to be supported in making their choices.

“Part of this process is to actively engage people who use services to commission the package of services they need, but with support from professionals.”

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