Is Personalisation failing? Professor Simon Duffy, the founder of "In Control" thinks so. ("Personalisation was supposed to empower vulnerable citizens. It has failed." Guardian 30 January 2014. Some of the Comments are interesting, too.)
Intended as a more flexible and efficient system with people having more control to create solutions built around their own lives, Simon Duffy says Personalisation has become in too many cases,
- an excuse for abandonment or
- the new bureaucracy or
- an excuse to cut costs
Worth reading alongside Simon Duffy's Guardian article is the latest blog post from Jenny Morris “If you don’t know your history, you’re like a leaf that doesn’t know it’s part of a tree”. She runs through the history of personalisation in the UK which led to Improving the Life Chances for Disabled People in 2005 and Putting People First in 2007. Like Simon Duffy, Jenny Morris sees reasons for not being cheerful:
"Throughout the last 30 years, disabled people have struggled, but failed, to establish a right to independent living. .... There is also no entitlement to support to use direct payments – in the way that was envisaged by Centres for Independent Living" and she, too, sees the encroachment of bureaucracy: "Local authority social services departments remain in control over how people access support. For all the rhetoric about ‘personalisation’ and ‘choice and control’, the process of getting a personal budget or direct payment is usually dominated by complicated procedures devised by the local authority because they fear risk, mistakes and fraud. And because all too often people working in statutory, and some voluntary sector, organisations think that they know best."
Another very worthwhile read, stimulated by Simon Duffy's Guardian article is Mark Neary's latest posting "The Personalisation Problem" on his blog "Love, Belief and Balls". Mark, as ever, locates public policy and principles firmly in the lived experience of his own life and that of his son, Steven.
Local authority budgets are undoutedly severely reduced but blaming "the cuts" doesn't wholly cut the mustard, not for me, anyway. For me, Jenny Morris, in her final paragraph is much closer to the truth of it, the cultural failure on Rights:
The problem is that access to the resources which would make independent living possible is still determined by those who, all too often, have little or no understanding of where current policies come from. There remains a yawning gap between policy rhetoric and reality, a gap made possible because – as 30 years ago – disabled people still do not have a legal right to choose how they receive the support needed to go about their daily lives.
California has had the Lanterman Development Disabilities Act since 1977: a statutory right to services and supports that enable disabled people to live a more independent and normal life. I first heard of the Lanterman Act and saw something of its operation in 2007, as part of my Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship.
(One aspect of the Lanterman Act that, being in the voluntary sector, always struck a chord with me was Section 4620 which reads in part: "The Legislature finds that the services provided to individuals and their families by regional centers is of such a special and unique nature that it cannot be satisfactorily provided by state agencies. Therefore, private nonprofit community agencies shall be utilized by the state for the purpose of operating regional centers."
" .... of such a special and unique nature that it cannot satisfactorily be provided by state agencies ....". Including, in the UK, local authorities, no doubt.