Personalisation – it’s all about you! Or is it now all about money?

I had a trip down memory lane this week. I attended Coventry City Council’s “It’s all about you” event at the British Transport Museum. This was a public event, promoting the personalisation agenda in social care and health and I pitched up with a friend. It was good to catch up with former colleagues, including people I had worked with on the Individual Budgets pilot in Coventry. This was where I first became steeped in the opportunities and challenges of adopting an outcomes –focused approach and tailoring support to individuals, rather than the traditional approach of people having to fit into fixed, pre-determined services. This is where I developed my passion for personalisation, enabling people to have choice and control over their own lives.

But the atmosphere at that time (three years ago) was different. It was before the CUTS in public services. The IB project, involving 13 pilot sites across the country, was well resourced. In Coventry, specifically, our project involved just 40 people – as we were concentrating on people undergoing major changes in their lives. It was SO rewarding.

I led the “research and evaluation” workstream and co-produced a booklet called “Our Stories”. We worked with a great team from Coventry University and enabled the participants to tell their own stories through a variety of media (their choice, of course!) including photos, video, diaries, audio recordings and, the one I loved most, a giant (yes GIANT – 28 feet by 10 feet!) jigsaw. I am still proud of that project. We had the luxury of time and resources and made a real difference to people’s lives.

I had always wondered how this would pan out when individual budgets (as they were then) were extended (or “rolled out, to use the jargon) to everyone. Could quality be maintained alongside quantity? Could it all become the “normal” way of doing things (“mainstreamed”). Would it be suitable for all client groups, as our project mainly involved younger adults with learning disabilities or physical disabilities? What about older people or people who lacked mental capacity or who did not have strong advocates among family and friends? (Co-incidentally, some very similar issues have been explored in depth this week in an excellent blog by Fighting Monsters).

And these questions and concerns were all before the CUTS…

So, back to the event in Coventry… There was a real buzz when we arrived. It was well attended, the people manning the stalls were enthusiastic and helpful, the atmosphere was upbeat. There was even a saxophone playing some rather random notes from time to time. We joined in a rather chaotic game of spending personal budgets… I wonder where they got the idea of explaining personalisation through a game…

We were “in the shoes” of Sally – we knew what her agreed “outcomes” were and we visited the stalls to find creative ways of spending the personal budget to meet the outcomes. We were offered exciting things like driving lessons or perhaps a trip to the cinema or the chance to buy a pet – all the things that could indeed enhance Sally’s life and are central to personalisation. All as it should be.

“It’s all about you”. People were carrying lovely, colourful bags saying “It’s all about you”. The messages were the messages of personalisation, finding ways of using money more creatively to enhance lives.

But there is less money. A lot less money.

The rest of this blog is NOT about Coventry. Or rather, I have no idea whether it applies equally to Coventry as I am not trying to focus on any particular local authority, just begin to flag up the growing threat to personalisation generally. How it is starting to feel different from those heady early days…

In many localities personal budgets are being cut. We hear stories of people unable to buy even the services they had before. Day centres closing but sometimes, instead of more interesting “mainstreamed” community activities, there is nothing in its place. I heard a father on the early morning news this week saying that he used to take his daughter to nursery, but it has closed. They used to go swimming, but the pool had closed – and now the library is under threat.

I also attended a social work conference where once again enthusiastic people gathered, wanting to learn and make progress. One of the opening speakers made clear “We are not here to talk about the cuts!” A rather academic overview of the sector and new frameworks and initiatives ensued.

But I spoke first hand to many social workers. I ran a Whose Shoes? workshop where there were great discussions – real discussions, discussions about how to keep being creative and deliver personalisation despite the cuts. Making best use of the money available. All as it should be.

But the cuts ARE affecting personalisation. Personalisation was always meant to make better use of money, to “think outside the box”. But the box is getting smaller. It IS time to talk about the cuts and give the public and front-line workers a realistic answer.

Is it “all about you” or, sadly, despite the best intentions, now is it “all about money”?

It is time for a really honest debate and some soul-searching.

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About Gill Phillips - Whose Shoes?

Passionate about personalisation in health & social care. Creator of Whose Shoes? - an imaginative approach to helping people work together to improve lives. http://nutshellcomms.co.uk
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6 Responses to Personalisation – it’s all about you! Or is it now all about money?

  1. Casdok says:

    The future from my sons shoes is very bleak.

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  2. PennyL says:

    My sister works in Coventry. She says that people with learning disabilities now go to IKEA with their support workers to keep warm instead of to a day centre as it is all they can afford.

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  3. Mary says:

    Your experience mirrors mine, was involved in pilots, it all looked as if things were really going to change for the better.
    Its been downhill ever since. Mainly due to money getting tighter and tighter. The “paperwork” has grown and grown and grown. It seems the less money, the more paperwork and dare I say it delaying tactics.
    I personally think people in the public sector should have been thinking about “cuts” for months and months, find it astonishing that anyone would think it was Ok to carry on as if nothing has happened or happening. Its bizarre!
    The public sector has to do a lot more for a lot lot less. Who will “the public” blame when they dont get something they think they need, or a slower poorer service ?
    Will they really look upwards to the government and say, oh yes, its down to them, making totally unnecessary cuts. If we are lucky they will join up the dots but more likely they will blame the even more overworked underpaid person they see or speak to on the phone, so when even more cuts are proposed, who will care ? No one ! They were rubbish anyway they will say.
    Someone said to me a couple of days ago “this is worse than even thatcher” Shes right.
    Those that fare worst will be those who need to use public services and need support. Plan is for 25% cut in “welfare payments” how can that not hurt people.
    Sadly Personalisation is seen by many as a way of cutting, not enabling. Its not fair as it was/is such a brilliant idea and with the right funding really could have been different.

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  4. Pingback: Lots (more) MH news and info « Launchpad: By and for mental health service users

  5. Whose Shoes? says:

    Many thanks for all the comments. Personalisation IS a brilliant idea – we need to concentrate on ways to make it happen for everyone, DESPITE the cuts. A tall order, I know but I want this blog to be a positive tool. I want to hold a mirror up to what is happening – good and bad – and provide a means of people posting snippets and stories to collect a picure of how things really are and what can be done to keep working towards the key principles and goals.
    I believe everyone deserves choice and control and a good quality of life where they can fulfil their potential. The challenge is to stay true to these core values, while making the very best use of public money against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts and demographic pressures.
    Please keep your comments coming – the very nature of personalisation is for everyone to have a voice!

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  6. charles47 says:

    Sadly the only people with a voice seem to be those holding the purse strings. Eligibility cuts are impacting, loss of community services will bite…

    My son has a very personalised service that was managed without using personalised budgets. It’s working so well that his medication is being reduced for the first time in years. We now know that his resource allocation under personalisation would have led to an indicative budget of 1/3 the cost of his current package. It’s hard to see how any amount of discussion would bring it to the appropriate level, so we’d be forced to seek a judicial review. We’ll see in 7 months when the annual review is due and he goes onto a personal budget.

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