Over the past few weeks there has been much debate about
personal budgets in an era of austerity with some good discussion
about challenges and possible solutions. However 'Think Local
Act Personal' is about more than personal budgets. The much
bigger and more important debates are about the future of the
relationship between the national and local state and local people
in their communities and about how communities themselves build and
sustain supportive networks. Though In Control itself is strongly
associated with self-directed support and personal budgets we have
always seen this as only one means to the end of an inclusive,
mutually supportive society. Sometimes we have faced the criticism
that we are for individual rather than collective solutions whereas
the reality of course is that personal budgets and supportive
community networks are entirely complimentary.
Though made more urgent by the severe resource pressure on
public services this is really an on-going debate about the
adaptation of the welfare state and the appropriate contributions
of state, communities and individuals. There has been much
think-tank work in this area in recent years and some attempts to
give practical life to key ideas emerging from this thinking. In
policy terms there have been significant interventions, especially
from CLG around place-based approaches and localism. Politically we
now have Red Toryism, Blue Labour, the Big and the Good Society -
all in this space.
As well as the sometimes distracting political heat generated is
the challenge of complexity. On the one hand there is the real
issue that working out how society transforms is quite difficult!
On the other there are lots of clever people thinking about this
stuff and sometimes practicality gets neglected. That's why I'm
really pleased that Think Local, Act Personal's Building
Community Capacity project has now published some practically
useful materials for people attempting to build and sustain
community capacity in their areas. Kicked off by my old Putting
People First Team at the DH and led by the impressive Catherine
Wilton - this project has beavered away for almost two years now.
It has been engaging with councils, their community partners and
with organisations and initiatives active in developing and
delivering practical approaches to building and sustaining
supportive local networks. The project has uncovered and shared a
wealth of impactful groups and activities. Check out the website
………for lots of examples and local case studies.
Last week a new suite of practical materials were published.
evidence commissioned from Professor Martin Knapp from the LSE
on the cost effectiveness of some approaches including time banking
and community navigation - plus advice on cost efficient ways of
checking the impact of local activities. It is a terrible irony
that at a time when such approaches are most needed they are also
soft targets for local cuts. These tools offer some ways of proving
the worth and hence defending effective community-based
Another great practical contribution is offered by 'Are We There Yet'. This checklist and
planning tool aims to help local organisations and people make sure
that, in tough times, the real wealth of local communities is
released and sustained. It helps you work out how local partners
can mobilise and extend their capacity to support disabled and
older people and enable them to contribute as full citizens. To
illustrate some of the great initiatives, you can also watch online
film of a "Dragon's Den" type event held at the Guardian where
several groups pitched to a group of decision makers headed up by
Richard Jones director of adult social care at Lancashire and at
the time of filming president of ADASS.
We seem to be finding this even more difficult than delivering
self-directed support. There are lots of reasons for that -
political, conceptual, financial, practical and organisational.
However, this is where the most important action is going to be so
let's not get bogged down - let's get more local action going in
this space and keep sharing our learning.