Selling to Individuals (personalisation)

The background

Empowering individuals that receive support from the state has been high on the agenda for many of us in the sector, and for many organisations has been their core aim!

Slowly we have seen services provided by the state offering more choice and control (at least in theory!) to individuals and families. The theory that one size does not fit all has been part of official government policy (Conservative, Labour and now the Coalition) since the 1990s with various initiatives to action the policy.

In the more recent past being able to exercise choice and control has centred on individuals being given cash (called direct payments) rather than access to a service and so can spend their money were they like. This first became law in 1996 (Community Care and Direct Payments Act) although initially was for disabled people only and was little used as it was discretionary. However the Health and Social Care Act (2001) made it mandatory for local authorities to offer direct payments to those with an assessed need.

Again there was slow progress but in 2007 Putting People First officially introduced the idea of a personalised adult social care system, where people have maximum choice and control over their support, and services are tailored to meet the individual needs and preferences of users. A key policy initiative was that each individual should have a personal budget, a specific amount of cash to purchase support of their choice to meet their assessed need(s). This cash could either be given to them (a direct payment) or given to an organisation or kept by the local authority but in both cases acting on the decisions of the user. In 2008 the government set targets that by the end of March 2011, 30% of eligible service users across all adult social service departments in England would be receiving and purchasing support through personal budgets and 100% by March 2013 (in March 2012 52.8% were in receipt but a recent survey by Community Care reported that most councils did not believe they would meet the 100% target by next April).

At the end of the Labour government the theory of personalisation (and in particular that of personal budgets) was spreading beyond adult social care. Labour were thinking of looking at children’s services and also set up pilots in the NHS, including one in Dorset.

The Coalition government has maintained a commitment to personalisation and has accelerated its introduction into other public services. For instance the health pilots are due to end in October 2012 and will then be evaluated but the government has already said that their aim is that by April 2014 everyone who gets NHS Continuing Healthcare will be able to ask for a personal health budget. Also following last year’s Green Paper, ‘Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability’, the government said on 26 April 2012 that they expect parents to have the right to control budgets for their children with special needs by 2014.

A very good introduction to the background, theory and practice of personalisation and its impact on the voluntary and community sector was produced a few yerars ago by NCVO. Personalisation-Rhetoric to Reality although a bit old is a good introductary read.

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