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Personalisation for all?

A regular and understandable challenge to the shift towards personalisation comes from those who point to groups of people clearly not benefitting well at present. Sometimes challengers suggest that personalisation is not relevant or not wanted by some groups. In other cases people point to groups they believe are being neglected and denied the opportunities that personalisation can bring. In both cases, a common difficulty is to see how the methods of personalisation could apply in certain circumstances such as when the money available is low, individual decision making is an issue, people don't have supportive families available, crisis situations etc. If you extend into other areas of public service there are also groups for whom the application of personalisation may be resisted on the grounds that people should not be allowed to self-direct.

So what should we do? Some would suggest that "personalisers" should just butt out of certain situations. One recent contributor to the Community Care Carespace Forum for example recently posted  "For the most part…………older vulnerable adults (in general) are not interested in choices about their care, not interested in what they might do with their budget money and they almost certainly do not want the responsibility of the admin of such budgets... all they require (in general) is to have the needed care & support arrive at the agreed time, day in, day out and preferably with the same care worker".

For others though the question is "how?"  It is clearly true that some situations and circumstances it is really hard to see how things can be personalised - how can you personalise a 15 minute commissioned session of homecare? What do you do when low paid staff turnover at a rapid rate and receive little training? We must not kid ourselves that money is not an issue or that miracles can be performed through magical methods whatever the resource situation. At the same time these difficulties can't lead to inaction - surely we all have a responsibility to see what can be done to improve people's experiences through personalised approaches being developed and adapted to work in new situations.

The positive news is that we and others are getting on with finding solutions. There are now quite a few years worth of helpful learning and experience about methods and approaches that can help bring personalisation to places it has not previously reached. There is also a growing will to do so. In just this past week I myself have been involved in encouraging and practically focused discussions and planning with serious people determined to extend personalisation into home care for older people, support for people with cancer and to residential and nursing care for people with dementia. Two weeks ago at our In Control leadership event we were inspired by a presentation by Helen Sanderson and Steve Scown about the ground-breaking and courageous work that Dimensions have started - using an as yet little implemented form of personal budgets - Individual Service Funds (ISF). Over this next year we are going to work with partners to explore the application of ISFs to homecare.

Looking beyond social care there must also be real possibilities to apply self-direction and personalisation into new areas of public policy where people find themselves trapped, the state often spends enormous sums and existing forms of intervention often don't work well enough. In Control has worked on a small scale, for example in criminal justice and substance misuse in recent times. Work that my colleague John Waters initiated in London with rough sleepers showed very encouraging results. We are aware of others starting to explore the potential of personalisation in these areas.

We know that others feel the same way we do on this matter and that encourages us that we may be on the cusp of breakthroughs over the next few years. In the meantime watch this space over the next few months for news of practical projects and developments from us and others, and if you are thinking or working on similar lines please let us know.

Martin Routledge

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Last Updated : 24 January 2012. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.