Welfare to Work

Personalisation and the New Coalition by Dr Simon Duffy

Personalisation and the Coalition

Personalisation should be central to the new coalition’s agenda; it is a civil society strategy which brings efficiencies and improved outcomes, while strengthening citizens, families and communities. But its fate is far from certain, and for good reason.

Anybody looking at the previous government’s record on personalisation would be asking themselves why:

  • Something that should save money has cost over £1 billion extra?
  • Something that should simplify things has led to more complexity?
  • Something that was meant to make things easier for the most vulnerable has often made things more difficult?

I would not be surprised if the new government scrapped the whole of the current top-down initiative. Like many good ideas before the central challenge remains: implementation, implementation and implementation.

The previous government’s implementation of personalisation was flawed from its inception in 2005. The government sought to control a policy it didn’t fully understand and which it has never fully thought through. Hence they spent money, issued targets, recruited consultants, published guidance and generally tried to ‘take charge’. None of these measures have been effective or coherent.

There is a role for central government, not as an agent of implementation, but instead focusing on:

  • Integrating the diverse personalisation initiatives across Whitehall
  • Reform of the legislation that underpins public services
  • Merging the funding streams that issue out of Whitehall
  • Agreeing a clear role for local government
  • Connecting individual budgets to the tax-benefit system
  • Defining the fundamental rights that families and citizens can expect

It will be interesting to see the new government’s reaction to personalisation. The better part of the coalition should like it – it is liberal, but it is rooted in social justice and it strengthens civil society. But, in harsh economic times anyone looking at what has been achieved so far may see something that needs ‘cutting’.

Of course this will not be the end of personalisation. Personalisation was not invented by government and it has grown and developed, in real communities, led by disabled people and those at the front-line of public services, with minimal government support. Those of us who are working to shift power and control back to citizens will still find allies and opportunities to build a better world. Hopefully this government will listen more closely, think more deeply and act more strategically. If it does, personalisation could genuinely lead to the reform of the welfare state.

Simon Duffy

Director of The Centre for Welfare Reform www.centreforwelfarereform.org

Simon created Individual Budgets and Self-Directed Support and in 2008 was given the RSA’s Prince Albert Medal for his work on personalisation.

1 Comment

  1. I am a Social Worker in mental health. I fully agree with the above concerns. Personalisation has lead to so much more paperwork. We have had to recruit extra staff to provide us with the indicative budgets etc. Clients are baffled by it and prefer things the way they were. I would say that I spend 90% if my time behind my computer now, rather than in the community visiting vulnerable people. Many of my nursing and social work colleagues are leaving the profession for this reason. I seriously hope changes are made to remove this added layer of bureaucracy soon.

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