Category Archives: direct payments
I have some across lots of discussions and debates about ways of using social media and new technologies and interactions to ‘help’ social services become more effective. Most of it seems to revolve around building online directories and databases of micro providers and services that are available which build on so-called community capacity to improve the way that personal budgets can or might work.
At the risk of sounding overly cynical there is nothing ‘innovative’ in my mind about building a directory of services. To me, this is not a particularly innovative way to use ‘technology’ in social services. It taking a very obvious and well-trodden route to using new technologies. Providing directories while being useful to a certain group of people again exacerbates the isolation of those who are not party to or able to use them. Being innovative isn’t always necessary to be helpful but it is very important that new ideas are focussed so we don’t just end up with increasingly specialised, localised directories that might have more ‘interactive’ features and feedback, look more ‘user led’ and compatible with the buzz words of social media but in the end they are brushing the surface of possibilities.
It feels more and more as if that there is a growing division between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ as far as personal budgets have been extended and does absolutely nothing to address or use technologies to address those who reside continually in the ‘have not’ section.
While at work, we labour with database systems that have clearly been developed through conversations between commissioners and software companies without any recourse to frontline practitioners, nice new provider directories are being tinkered around with while the fundamental foundations of the systems we work with remain resolutely inaccessible.
I’ve had a few ideas myself and whilst I lack the technological expertise to see any of these ideas to fruition, this is a kind of ‘wish list’ of the sorts of things I’d like to see. I’m under no illusion that these are ‘new’ ideas. I am sure similar things already exist in some form but they are things I’d like to see pan out in the longer run. Things I’d like to use at work.
I’d like to see more creativity in the use of technologies to assist with decision making for adults who have some kind of cognitive deficit. I’m a great fan of the ‘tablet’ and ‘touch screen’ model as I think it is intuitively an easier interface to understand. When I see people instinctively reach out to touch the screen of my Kindle (which isn’t touchscreen!) I realise that we are becoming conditioned to seek the easiest input methods which are about touching a screen and speaking into a microphone and perhaps writing on a tablet. Now, voice recognition has improved, I’m yet to come across very successful handwriting recognition (possibly because I have scrawly almost illegible handwriting) but there is potential there. In the meantime, pictures and touchscreens seem like a good way to go.
Using pictures/sounds/music it can draw on multi-media ‘shows’ and explanations of different options – moving beyond the ‘written word’. Providing documentation in aural form or in pictorial/moving form rather than reams of leaflets. Having recordings of familiar voices or pictures of familiar faces might help to reassure. I’m a great fan of telecare in general with the proviso of always being mindful that the human contact is not replaced but in days where human contact is sparsely provisioned anyway, it may be something that can be experimented with.
Why not a YouTube type video to explain how services can be chosen instead of reams of ‘easy read’ leaflets which really aren’t remotely ‘easy read’. Instead of flooding people with lists of providers (which, while good for some ignores those who are restricted in terms of capacity and carers to choose ‘freely’ the types of services they garner) why not explain and expound in different ways the ways that services can work?
Why not explain providers in terms of what they can actually provide and what purpose they serve rather than creating directories that are meant for people with a good understanding of what they want and need?
I was in a day centre last week and there was a seemingly unused Wii. I wonder if he Kinect might be a better project to develop some type of interactive play, exercise and work as it doesn’t need a controller at all and uses the more innovative way of body movement. Using participatory games with larger screens in company can provide different stimuli. I know why games developers haven’t tackled directly the ‘older’ market with games that might otherwise reside in memories but why not repackage old school yard games and board games with Kinects and iPads? It may be a good way to introduce the use of these new technologies in a ‘friendly’ manner which may then see them used in other wider ways – such as directories or personalised information sources. Using YouTube video channels for personally designed ‘reminiscence’ therapies could personalise the delivery of memories and digitise memory boxes where items are not there to build up the frames of someone’s life and people aren’t there to fill in the gaps.
There are many ‘dating site’ type services that match people and organisations. Volunteers to voluntary groups etc. How about a type of match between schools and residential homes? I know it’s something that’s sometimes done locally where I work and having spoken to both providers and some of the kids who go in, they seem to enjoy it and it can change and break expectations – each of the other. I
We talk of social media a lot and often it is used to provide ‘recommendations’ to particular services through these databases. Perhaps more user and carer led general recommendations can be collated. Crowd source an ‘introduction’ to social services provisions by those currently using the service.
Ask ‘what do you wish you’d known?’ ‘what do you wish someone had told you?’ and while taking out all the obviously libellous stuff, a local authority must be brave enough to leave in the criticisms. We learn through complains and criticisms and it can take a lot of guts (or anger) to make a complaint or to criticism and that MUST be respected by the service and the individuals at fault and used as a means of improvement.
I don’t want to see local authorities ‘whitewash’ problems in order to gain sparkling OFSTED or CQC inspections. It sullies the whole process and makes the inspections worthless. Regulation should be less authoritarian and more about actually making improvements and making things better for the end user – not about allowing local authorities to produce the ‘right’ results while poor practice is brushed away from the sight of the inspectors.
But back to my point about using social media to crowdsource – it is important that social media ALONE is not used as an ‘answer’. Crowd sourcing must be honest but it must also be broader than putting out an ‘internet consultation’ and having a Twitter account or blog. There must be pounding of the streets too to engage those who are not able to use digital means to put their points across. There should be knocking at doors and face to face discussions – not leaflets, not inaccessible (for some) groups.
Talking about crowdsourcing though, there’s a much better and perhaps more obvious way it can be used and certainly isn’t being used at the moment and that’s to engage other social workers and professionals into putting together more information and useful methods of practice for ourselves. Sure, it needs time but we remain reliant on organisations to provide ‘guidance’ such as SCIE (who do provide fantastic resources) and BASW and the College of Social Work but why none of these organisations who purport to exist to help social work and social care practice actually engage more directly and use social media and open access blogs/discussion groups/forums/micro blogging etc to engage with currently practicing social workers is completely beyond me.
I’ve become very interested in open access education and resources and feel there is great scope for professional engagement and information to build its own resources and information together with users and carers, together with other professionals but there has to be a push for social workers to see the benefit of sharing and finding appropriate ways to share the information that we learn every day.
I have other ideas which will come in different posts but I’d be interested in hearing other peoples’ ideas for uses of ‘technology’ in the very broadest sense and how they can develop to help the broadest range of people we see in social services – particularly those who are less able to look information up in various fancy online directories.
I caught this article a few days ago on the Huffington Post by a Social Work academic, trying to explain away another aspect of the riots and cashing in on his status no doubt as an ‘authority’. I don’t have much time for the body of the article.
He starts by saying
There is much of merit in the Prime Minister’s speech concerning the riots
and I’m afraid he almost lost me there as I found absolutely nothing of merit in the Prime Minister’s speech. Not even a single thought that I would deem worthy of merit.
He also states that
Social work has developed, importantly, its commitment to people made vulnerable, marginalised and disenfranchised by social, political and economic circumstances. However, it has constructed an edifice of anti-oppressive practice sometimes decorated with the inanities of political correctness that hampers its position to mediate and negotiate a pathway that re-engages individuals with their society.
I dislike the way the author picks the intellectually soft targets of ‘PC gone mad’ brigade to cast aspersions on the profession and to attempt to construct a criticism of an over-reliance on ‘anti-oppressive practice’.
Perhaps I’ve had the theories ingrained into me after years of practice but I maintain that it is absolutely vital that social work retain a fundamental commitment to language of inclusion, equality and equity and I have strong objections to the theft of ‘political correctness’ as some kind of negative stream that is acting to society’s detriment. I believe very strongly that challenging oppressive language and offensive language is the first stage to changing assumptions and removing labels.
It seems to be desperately sad that someone who purports to be teaching social work holds these ideas and I have to wonder if his goal is simply to gain more ‘status’ for himself.
His criticism comes a lot closer to home when he states that
Perhaps for too long social workers have been content to stand outside of the policies and workings of society when it suits, whilst still being employed, in the main, by local government.
and I honestly have to claim I’m not sure I know what he means. I wish he had written in a less emotive and a more explanatory style. Shame, if he considers himself to be a so-called ‘teacher’ that he can’t express his ideas in a clearer way and come out with exactly what he means by ‘content to stand outside of the policies and workings of society’. To whom is he referring this comment? I take it personally because he goes on to refer to those of us employed in local government, like me, but I wouldn’t by any means see myself as being ‘content to stand outside the policies and workings of society’ and I would say, if he is doing his job properly in teaching and training social workers, he isn’t doing very well at it if those are the kinds of social workers he is producing.
Every single day I go into work (and many I don’t) I consider how the impact of my work affects the society I work around and live in. I have never been content to ‘stand outside’ and take the proverbial government dollar. I challenge from within the system and criticise from without. That is what the reflective and critical analysis that we are taught trains us to do.
If you are not happy with it, Mr Parker—oh, sorry, I mean Professor — teach it better.
But there was one aspect of the article which rang a bell for me while he is having a dig at the provisions of the welfare state and buying into the tired government rhetoric of the ‘something for nothing’ benefit claimant as he says
The rise of neoliberal, de-humanised market-driven approaches have encouraged a version of Government that has removed personal well-being from the economic. In the middle is the third level of action that is dependent on social policy and legislation and individual ‘buy-in’. It is the area of social welfare. We have a system in which a person’s expectations have reached a point at which there is no need for reciprocal action themselves. There is an important social welfare cushion that rightly protects vulnerable people. However, it allows some to play that system, to refuse to engage with training, work or socially responsible activity and to believe they have a right, not simply for protection, but for continued support regardless of lifestyle, behaviour and willingness to contribute to society.
When I first read this paragraph I thought he was going to go off into a far more interesting angle of discussing the way that personalisation has led to a commodification of resources and the reduction of care to money and cash but no, he went in the far more predictable tub-thumping ‘let’s bash benefit claimants’ way.
Well, I’m going to take the ‘neoliberal, de-humanised market-driven approaches’ in another angle.
Let’s think about what personalisation means. Of course it means choice. Choice is good. Choice is a word that abounds in economic theories relating to consumers.
Service users are now consumers so, the argument goes, they will have more equality in the market system. They can buy with their money what they choose.
That is the ideal but it is very very far from the reality for all. The agenda of choice is all very well and I heartily back it but it has been deceitfully delivered first to those who are most able to exercise choice (adults with physical disabilities, those with involved family members). We can see some excellent examples and many charities and organisations have whole-sale bought into the wonderful possibilities of opening up markets to more social enterprises and small providers.
The research evidence from the roll out of direct payments which proved that adults with mental health problems and older adults (particularly those without carer support) had a very poor take up of direct payments was COMPLETELY ignored when new systems of delivering personal budgets were developed. How those involved int he implementation were and are allowed to ignore swathes of evidence and plough on with the process in the way they ‘knew’ and the way it ‘suited them’ and this has somehow been interpreted as ‘successful’, I’ll never know.
As someone who actively advocated for those user groups who were ‘harder to reach’ to be targeted FIRST by personal budgets roll-out, I stand by what I said then. We have known what has worked for direct payments for a long time, why not look at new ways of managing them for those who lack capacity and don’t have family or informal support - but then, as now, I was completely ignored.
So we have a care delivery system which is very much couched in the biases of the market and insurmountable inequity that no-one is interested in challenging because it does not meet the needs of the narrative that relentlessly drives this as a wholly positive change. I completely accept it is a mostly positive drive. I want people to have better services but I see some people having much better services and some people having fewer, worse services and amid the wave of positivity, the difficulties are ignored.
We have commodified care needs and quantified them. Our work as social workers is about allocating resources and not supporting and providing a service ourselves.
An assessment becomes a mere conduit for an allocation of resources rather than an attempt to actually work to combat and counter inequities.
So has neoliberalism ‘won’ in the battle for the soul of social work? We become functionaries of the state for the most part and are reduced ad infinitum to processors and glorified data systems entry folk.
I don’t think so – not entirely. There is a real danger of it happening but we need academics to actually support us not attack us. We need people who are engaged in research to help us by providing information that will highlight what is lacking as government policy pushes forward relentlessly towards devolving responsibility and couching it as an increase in choice.
I am in favour of direct payments. I’m in favour of personal budgets but I am not in favour of the whitewashing that has taken place of the real problems, challenges and lack of choice which is the reality for the majority of people I work with.
I am more hopeful than Parker and his somewhat mealy-mouthed, confused ‘article’. I think we need to seize the opportunity to make social work something more meaningful in the face of neoliberal pressures to commodify everything.
I read on the BBC website among others that there is a report suggesting that care provided in the home by local authorities to older adults may be overlooking human rights issues.
An inquiry into this was initiated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in November 2010 and will report in December 2011 but some interim findings have already been published.
I think the context in which the inquiry is taking place is crucial in times that Cameron trying to pretend that he invented the personalisation agenda and rebrand it as a version of ‘Big Society’.
The scope then of the Inquiry as to determine where the responsibility of the ‘public authority’ under the Human Rights Act actually lies and I’m going to quote directly from the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) as I think this is a crucially important point in the progress of personal budgets and home care provision (n.b. the underlining is my own).
The nature of social care is changing rapidly with a greater emphasis on personalised services and choice. The majority of social care services are already delivered by private sector agencies, either via contract with local authorities or directly with individuals through a mix of public and private funding.
This complex web of transactions is combined with a narrow judicial interpretation of the meaning of ‘public authority’ under the Human Rights Act. This combination has created a confused picture concerning the duties and obligations of the various groups involved in respecting, protecting and promoting human rights.
Further, an increasing number of care transactions are likely to take place at the margins of, or even outside of, regulated care. There is the possibility that these transactions are beyond the present human rights obligations of the State.
We are also seeing the emergence of new on-line care marketing and brokerage services aimed at people purchasing social care with either ‘individual budgets’ or private funds. These marketing and brokering services are currently completely outside of the regulatory system with no means of monitoring the quality of the advice and services they offer. The Government wants to accelerate the pace of reform even further. While personalised care and support has many potential benefits, this is uncharted territory. There are concerns that human rights protection (and other issues) could fall between the gaps.
I’m going to come back, I’m afraid, to my perennial bugbear of people who lack capacity to make choices regarding care provisions and care delivery and wonder again how this group of people without family members, friends or advocates will be able to secure their own well-being in a world where responsibility of the state and the public authority is being discharged to private individuals. Will it become the responsibility of an advocacy service to determine that the support package and the provider of the support package are of a good quality? Or the carer/family member? Hardly the same as a protection under the Human Rights Act.
Food for thought and while I am extremely happy with the forward march of personal budgets and direct payments to those who are able and happy to manage their own budgets, the way that local authority managed budgets provide ‘more of the same’ regarding cheaply bought, block contracted social care remains floating fairly close to the edge regarding what is acceptable and what isn’t.
My fear is that the roll-out of personal budgets has not led to choice for all. It is a false choice and a false impression of the so-called ‘success’ of the roll-out. It has led to great benefits and more choice for some, yes, but I worry that this is actually at the expense of those without the louder voices to shout who have, again, been pushed to the bottom of the pile when quality services are being distributed.
So back to the reports findings so far.
Back to the BBC report
The Commission describes cases of people being left in bed for 17 hours, or more, between care visits and a failure to wash people regularly.
It received reports of people being left in filthy nightwear and bedding after a homecare visit, or without a wash or hair wash for several weeks.
Visits are sometimes so brief, the report says, that people have to choose between having a cooked meal or a wash.
The short visits also mean that staff have to rush tasks like washing and dressing, which frustrates elderly people and care staff
That doesn’t even bat an eyelid with me. This is what I have dealt with for the years I have been working in adult social care. Complaints and apologies about the time we can allocate for specific tasks due to budgets. Apologies on behalf of private agencies who have block contracts that cannot assure any kind of continuity of care. That’s not even mentioning the missed visits, the non-payment to staff of travel costs so they are cutting short visits in order to make it to the next ones. This is the reality of social care for older adults in the UK. Not the ‘season tickets to football matches’, not the ‘let me choose nice Mrs Walters’ daughter who I know from church to be my home carer’ kind of idyll that we are presented in the personalisation literature.
The reality for the people I work with and for is increasingly rushed visits and yes, choosing between a cooked meal (but only if it is a microwave meal because there is never ever time to cook a meal more complicated than tinned soup or beans on toast from ‘scratch’) and a shower.
The way to solve this problem and promote dignity is to increase and not reduce budgets for social care in the home. But budgets are being cut and cut hard.
Local authorities use block contacts with private care agencies to save money. The private care agencies generally pay staff at minimum wage. There are some fantastic carers and some fantastic agencies but they are penalised if they don’t offer their services at the very very lowest cost.
As for personal budgets? It is a wonderful reality for some but for most of the people I work with and for, it is a pipe-dream for people with a different kind of disability and with different kinds of support needs from the ones which are mostly promoted in our training programmes and in our policy documents.
If the government truly and genuinely means what it says about increasing and drawing out the personalisation agenda and increasing personal budgets delivered by direct payments there have to be ways clear and research undertaken to help us to create protective and interactive systems for people who are not at the forefront of the march because they don’t realise how much they are being penalised for not having a family member who is able to help with choosing and designing a care package and because they are not able to do this for themselves.
There has to be money spent on developing ways to allow those who at the moment are most at risk of vulnerability to be protected and cared for.
There are so many problems with a society that treats older adults or, in fact, anyone in the way that older people who are in need of care are treated currently. No-one wants to address it because no-one wants to pay. And it will cost.
No-one wants to lose their homes. No-one wants to lose their savings. No-one wants to pay higher taxes. No-one wants to lose weekly bin collections. No-one wants to pay insurance premiums.
The people who hold the reins of power will never be subjected to the humiliations which become a part of daily life for older adults who have need of support that is provided because they’ll be able to buy in their own ‘help’ privately.
Older people in need of assistance are less noisy than younger adults and less emotive than children in poverty and need. Ultimately we shouldn’t ration compassion and there’s no need for a choice to need to be made between one group or another
In the roll out of direct payments and then personalisation and personal budgets, it is the more able younger adults who have led the march and those who have been setting the policy and agenda seem to have completely forgotten the group of older people who don’t have involved family members and who might not have the capacity to take decisions about care needs for themselves in the rush towards pushing the responsibility for support planning and choice of care routines. They have forgotten amid the wonderful stories of attending football matches instead of day centres that some peoples’ reality is more about choosing a microwave meal or a shower.
Until those issues are addressed and the protection of the most potentially vulnerable groups of people is managed, the new system will not be equitable and it will not be fair. But perhaps that suits this government that wants shift responsibility from the state to the individual – which is fine to an extent but there are some people who really need that protection.
I look forward to the final report of the EHRC in December.
- Should private companies be looking after the elderly? (telegraph.co.uk)
Posted in carer, carers, dementia, direct payments, Disability, discrimination, elderly, health, local authority, mental health, old age, older people, personal, personal budget, social care, social work, work
Tags: direct payments, ehrc, elderly home care, equality and human rights commission, government, Home Care, home care and human rights, Human Right, Human Rights and Liberties, human rights of older adults, individual budgets, local government, old age, personal budgets, personalisation, report into home care, social work
Yesterday, Community Care published the result of a survey they had undertaken about ‘personalisation’ among social care professionals.
The headline figures while wholly unsurprising, make for interesting reading where only 41% of respondents felt that service users would benefit from the implementation of personal budgets and 83% felt that cuts would impede the progress of the personalisation agenda.
To which my first thought was ‘only 83%’?
Anyone who has read some of my previous writing/ranting about personalisation will be pretty clear where I stand.
While the idea and the concept of introducing more person-centred support planning and opening up direct payments to a wider range of people is absolutely fantastic as a concept, the implementation has been dire.
There has been a complete side-lining of service user groups that don’t fit into the ‘easy’ mode – namely those with mental health problems, older adults and those who might not have capacity to involve themselves fully in the support planning process, the same figures and quotes that the government and her agencies roll out again and again about the man who pays for a PA to go with him to a football match instead of a day centre are so completely off the radar when the smaller pool of money available for care services exist that they are almost insulting to those for whom a) the thought of having enough money allocated to pay for two tickets to a football match would equal 7 showers a week – so it’s football or cleanliness and b) that group of people (because, yes, much as the government don’t want to accept it, they do exist) that actually WANT to go to day centres.
And so we plough on.
But even though I have had many criticisms of the way that personalisation and particularly personal budgets either managed centrally by the local authority (where the end effect is exactly the same for the service users in most situations) or delivered by direct payments (where someone has to have capacity and desire to take on the direct payment and employ assistants or have someone who is willing and able to do that for them) – there is more to the personalisation agenda and process which is in danger of being lost in the process.
Personalisation as a value base and an approach to work and social work in particular with people who need or who are eligible to receive services for care ties in perfectly with aims of re-addressing the power differential between provider and ‘receiver’ and the imbedded dichotomy between ‘giver’ and ‘taker’ in society.
That model of giver/taker which is bound within the welfare state system can create an imbalance and the potential to give back some of the ‘control’ and some of the decisions to the person who receives services may, in some way, redress elements of this balance. There is no way that my training and experience has taught me better than anyone else, what YOU as a recipient need. Yes, I learnt my theories and my models and understand that building social networks is important but if you prefer to do that at a coffee morning at the local museum instead of at a day centre that’s perfect. If you want your neighbour’s granddaughter to help with your personal care rather than an anonymous and frequently changing ‘carer’ from a local agency who is paid at mimimum wage and has a day full of appointments and who isn’t paid for travel time by her agency so she needs to cut short on some of the time – perfect.
But we already had that system with Direct Payments. Where is the difference?
Ideologically, the difference was that everyone would know how much money they were ‘getting’ – whether directly or managed and they would be able to be consumers. Our society tells us that money is power. Money creates consumers and the market will right itself.
Even, theoretically, when a personal budget is managed by a third party (and I include the local authority as a potential ‘manager’) you will know how much is ‘allocated’ to you so that you can ‘spend’ it in the way you want.
This doesn’t happen in practice though because local authorities need to save money and are still tied up into procurement contracts that make agencies unequal when ‘bidding’ for the funds that have been allotted via personal budgets.
I know this is getting a bit technical and complicated but it’s important to understand. I don’t think anyone can oppose ‘personalisation’ as an approach regarding empowerment and ideology.
The implementation, however, reeks of money-saving and penny pinching. It also has pushed the responsibility for services away from the local authorities and onto individuals and their carers.
You have £100 per week, find the care yourself – then we (the LA) aren’t responsible anymore.
I’m wholly in favour of contracting out assistance and advice on self-assessments and support planning to local voluntary sector organisations. My own LA tried that. We referred lots of people to them. They withdrew because we were referring too many people to them and the local organisations didn’t have the resources (or the contract) to undertake as many support plans as were being referred – but the idea is not one I have any problem with and in fact, I rather like it.
But this wasn’t offered to people who do not have the capacity to lead in their own self-assessment and support planning. The organisations couldn’t do that because they were not experienced in non-directed advocacy work – it takes longer.
It is hard to see through the budget cuts as well towards a future where, as Burstow as said he wants direct payments to be the ‘preferred method’ of delivery of personal budgets. I don’t want to detract from the fact that this is and will be fantastic for some, perhaps most people, we move to a model where there is – again – a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
The true tragedy of the personalisation agenda is that is has and is coming to fruition during a period of cuts – the government (and the previous Labour government too) want to pull back the responsibilities of local authorities and with the criteria for accessing any support is rising rapidly it may well be that more and more personal budgets are delivered directly from peoples’ own savings or disability benefits (while they still exist).
I am fearful of the future for adult social care but I’m not necessarily unhopeful.
I think there is potential for change and development but unfortunately the ways I see of improving systems come at higher cost. There has to be some major research and debate about the delivery of personal budgets and the way that personalisation encompasses people who lack capacity and lack advocates (family and friends) and how they can best benefit from this process – perhaps access to additional funds to pay for the trust fund type system of management we were assured would happen but in practice is not feasible for a relatively small sum of money as it costs more than it might deliver.
We need to see more about how support planning can work in the voluntary sector as, speaking personally, I genuinely don’t have time to do the process of support planning any justice as a part of my day to day job. It ends up being rushed because I can’t devote a couple of visits of a couple of hours to talk through and develop a truly person centred support plan.
The process of self-assessment needs to be reconsidered because while the idea is fantastic for some people – our self-assessment forms are biased towards physical disabilities and look scarily similar to a DLA form where people are asked to explain how they are on ‘their worst day’. That doesn’t really help with confident-building when you are working with someone who has very low self-esteem and depression/anxiety. The process of self-assessment in itself can and has been traumatic – let alone the person who is not able to engage with the assessment process due to a lack of mental capacity where questions about ‘dreams, hopes and wishes for the future’ while well-intentioned, can be hurtful and hard for families to listen to when they are asked to their parent who has advanced dementia.
I fear we have allowed a great conceit to be steamrollered into simply another ‘one size fits all’ approach to developing social care. It doesn’t have to be like this but that seems to be the government perception about what ‘personalisation and personal budgets’ are.
Choice is fantastic of course, but sometimes people want quality as well. It shouldn’t ever need to be an either/or. It does feel like it at the moment with the promotion of choice above all things.
So where are we going? Personalisation isn’t going away and nor should it. Personal budgets aren’t going away and nor should they. Local authorities, however, might be going away – further and further away from social care and the responsibilities that they hold towards it.
We keep up with the advocacy and with the systems that are failing because we owe it to those who are reliant on these systems to make them work as best they can but we keep trying to pinpoint and pin down the flaws in the implementation with the hope that sometime, some day, someone will listen.
As professionals we don’t oppose personalisation. We have always been trying to use person-centred approaches. We just dislike injustice and inequity and that seems to be painted all over the current implementation and the frustration is that so few people (if any) in government seem to be aware. Am I disillusioned? Yes, definitely. We were promised new ways of working in a more person centred way.
Desperate, no, not yet though as long as there’s some fight left in the belly to keep banging on and on and on about what personalisation SHOULD be and why it isn’t working yet. Not for everyone.
- Personalisation in Mental Health and Older Adult Services (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)
- Personal view of personal budgets (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)
Tags: budget, burstow, care in the community, direct payments, implementation of personalisation, individual budgets, local authority, local government, paul burstow, personal budget, personal budgets, personalisation, personalisation agenda, Personalization, social care, social work, uk
Yesterday I went to the C0mmunity Care Live conference. It is an annual event put on by Community Care Magazine and runs across two days. Being one of the very few free events (and excellent – free isnt the ONLY reason I go but it does help!), I’ve always made an effort to attend on one or other of the days and try and catch up on the workshop and debate programme that is put together about a very wide range of subjects relating to social care in the UK.
I went to a few workshops and my attempts at ‘live tweeting’ were scuppered initially when a colleague from work came to sit next to me in the first session.
It was a packed session run by the Mental Health Foundation about their Dementia Choices project and the title of the session was ‘Can personalisation and direct payment support work for people with dementia?’. There was an initial presentation about the research evidence and the project that the Mental Health Foundation had put together to pilot direct payments among adults with dementia and then there was a talk from the daughter of a service user whose direct payments had changed her life.
I was a bit disappointed though. Not with the presentation and talks – they were very good and it was obviously something that was very deeply felt by those who have direct payments working for them but, in a sense, I felt that the speaker who first received direct payments for her mother in 2003 (I think – that’s from memory but it was a good few years ago) could have made the same speech about their use about 2 or 3 years ago before the move of the more widespread personalisation agenda. Her mother had been receiving direct payments for 8 years. What was ‘different’ then with this new push towards everyone receiving a direct payment? I refer to my previous points about us knowing that direct payments can work incredibly well if there is an involved family to provide support for the person who may lack capacity but for the isolated older person who lacks capacity there is no ‘magic wand’ to make the systems that are over-complicated seem suddenly more empowering if there is no-one to take on the support planning role.
I’ve said this before and will again that I feel currently there is a two-tier service that we are providing where those with involved families and carers may receive the more individualised support plans simply because the additional time burdens of arranging support is placed on informal carers whereas those who do not have those networks receive exactly the same services as they always do – we just call it ‘managed personal budgets’.
The workshop instilled in me a kind of despair that this group of people that I work with a lot has again been sidelined in favour of the ‘easier’ groups. Where is the research with people who have greater cognitive impairments and who don’t have family members or carers who can or who are able to manage their support plans for them? Ah, a role for the voluntary sector perhaps? The problem is that the voluntary sector is also shrinking and someone needs to pay them so that a role for ‘support planning’ is likely to mean a lower personal budget.
Still, I know I should try and be more cheerful about it. It just seems that so much of the research time spent about personal budgets has been telling us things that we already knew about research that had taken place around marginalised groups regarding direct payments.
The second session I went to was about the need for media and social workers to work more closely together. Social Workers should not be afraid of the media and the media (and by that, the panel were referring particularly to main stream media – because that’s where the battles are to be won!) – should have a chance to engage more with social workers. The usual subjects of local authorities barring their employees from speaking to the press came up and hopefully the College of Social Work will be addressing this on a broader scale.
There are a lot of inaccuracies reported and it would be good to see more social workers able to contribute to debates about the work which we do to quell some of the misunderstandings.
I then went to session on Making Personalisation Work in an era of cuts. I almost didn’t go because I thought (wrongly, as it happened) that it would irritate me and that it would be people lecturing to us again how it is the intransigence of social workers which is holding up the forward march of social care.
It wasn’t that at all and for once, it really did sound like people were actually listening to what I wanted to say about the personalisation agenda and my fears for it. There is nothing at all I would like to do more than work in a person centred way regarding care and support planning. This is something I hope that I have always been doing since I qualified though. If it can be improved, it must be and I am more than willing to change every way I have of working in order to improve it but, and this was noted by the speakers, Peter Beresford and Miranda Wixon (of Think Local Act Personal) in some ways the government’s agenda of cuts has overtaken the meaning behind the ‘personalisation’ agenda.
Unfortunately, there has been a drive to try and deliver more for less and it is not only unrealistic, it can involve pushing people into making choices that they don’t necessarily want.
Beresford made the point that the government agenda is about pushing everyone onto direct payments as the ‘preferred method’ of delivering personal budgets but, he said, crucially – ‘preferred by whom’. Well, that would be the government.
There are more ways of delivering person centred planning and person centred support than providing the cash for someone to buy their own services and while it can work incredibly well for some people, there is the very real and often ignored or side-lined issue that it is not everyone’s choice to have that choice.
The excellent concept of personalisation and putting the primary role of designing support into the hands of the user of that support and the services is being lost to the marketisation agenda.
There was a speaker on the floor, in the question time who explained that the rate of pay for carers was lower than the rate of pay for employees in Tescos – asking, ‘Do we really value cans of beans over human life?’. It makes you ponder for a while – but there are vast issues about the undervaluing of care and support staff in our culture – not just through poor pay but through poor status. Surely the ‘heroes’ of our society should be the home carers and the support workers as much if not more than the professionals whom we traditionally hold in high esteem such as doctors – who, while performing fundamental roles are at least well-compensated for it.
Another speaker spoke about an issue that I am all too aware of where choice is actually reduced for service users as in-house local authority provided services are frozen out of the provider choice that has been given to users.
Can personalisation work then, in an era of cuts? We don’t have any choice. It will because the concept is a good one although the danger is that it has been completed hijacked by a government’s cost-cutting enterprise which will end up making social care delivery so restricted that it will barely exist in all but the most extreme situations.
It is not possible to detach ‘personalisation’ from ‘the era of cuts’ as local authorities have to divest themselves of many of their functions. I see a lot of third sector organisations and possibly private sector organisations moving into the support planning and assessment verifying and supporting roles. The money (when it comes) may come from the local authorities but they will not necessarily be involved in many of the intermediate processes. It may well be that some aspects of the work are far better done in other sectors. It will become far more usual for people to pay for their own care as the eligibility criteria rise – those who can afford it anyway – those who can’t afford it may well be waiting until they meet the critical bands of need before they receive support.
There will be a two-tier system of social care support. Those who can afford to meet their own ‘moderate/substantial’ care needs according to the Fair Access to Care Services and then shift to maybe receive some support from the local authorities as their needs increase – and those who can’t afford to meet their own moderate and/or substantial needs who will deteriorate more quickly and reach the ‘critical’ band which will qualify them for support quicker at the cost of their health and independence.
I am trying to think of a positive to end on. It was good to hear some of the concerns about the pushing out of the personalisation agenda are being heard. It was good to see groups of social workers who want to be engaged in the process of change. I got a good supply of pens and although I wasn’t able to nab a mug, I did get a frisbee!
I almost forgot too, that the announcement of the memorandum of understanding between BASW and the College of Social Work – great news. Long overdue in my view!
Personally, I enjoyed being able to catch up with some people I’ve known a long time, others I’ve come across before and some I’d only ever met in a ‘virtual’ capacity – thanks to Shirley Ayres, the team at RiPfA and of course, the Community Care team as well as others who will remain nameless!
- Personalisation in Mental Health and Older Adult Services (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)
I’ve not had much time to look through the Law Commission Report into the proposed changed in Adult Social Care Law but to say it’s been long needed is an understatement. Adult Social Care Law is a hotch-potch and a mess. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a student who asked for some help with her law revision and she put it very succintly to me when she said it was much harder to understand community care legislation because it was ‘all over the place’ as compared to legislation related to work with children or in the mental health fields.
Hopefully, there is an upcoming reassessment and improvement in the way that community care legislation and legal duties are delivered through a single Act. That was the purpose of the Law Commission Report.
There are 12 parts to the report and I’ll briefly look at each section and make no apology for summarising the bits that I, personally, will find useful and interesting. The report in full and in summary can be found here. Among all the links, there is also an audio version available.
Part 1 – Introduction
Unsurprisingly, this explains the background to the report namely that adult social care legislation is currently spread across disparate Acts of Parliament and there are some pieces of legislation that remain ‘on the statute book’ but are not currently in use/useable (s47 of the National Assistance Act!)
Usefully, this section does introduce an initial brief definition of ‘Adult Social Care’ as being
the care and support provided by local social services
authorities pursuant to their responsibilities towards adults who need extra support. This includes older people, people with learning disabilities, physically disabled people, people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol misusers and carers.
The introduction continues to explain the timetable for the change process and some of the policy developments (most notably ‘personalisation’ and the move towards personal budgets in social care) that are taking place in the context of this review.
Part 2 – Defining Adult Social Care
While a brief definition was given in the introduction, this second section explains the need for a more robust definition of what or rather, who, comes into the definition of ‘adult social care’ in legislation. This ‘definition’ will go beyond who receives services from social services departments and will include those who are not eligible for services so as well as duties regarding assessment and provision of services, there is likely to be a duty around providing more general information and advice. This comes from splitting into two the principles of provision of social care – the universal (where the advice, information and support would come in) and needs identified following an assessment.
Part 3 – Structure of the Reform
This talks about the need for a consolidation of social care legislation. Currently, the suggestion is that there will be one single ‘Adult Social Care’ Bill which will cover both England and Wales (although this depends on how far Wales may diverge post-election).
As for the details of legislative powers and guidance, there are going to be three ‘levels’
- Primary Legislation
- Statutory Instruments
- Statutory Guidance
This seems to make sense and is particularly uncontroversial but I was particularly pleased that there will be a Code of Practice introduced (the Statutory Guidance). Those of us use to working with the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act will have a good understanding of how Codes of Practice link to primary legislation and I think they have been enormously helpful in explaining the legal issues to laypeople and practitioners. It is actually specifically mentioned that the role of this Code of Practice will be similar to that in the MHA and MCA.
Part 4 – Statutory Principles
These ‘principles’ are familiar to those of us who work with Mental Health (and Children’s) legislation whereby there will be some underlying guiding principles and ideas to pull through the whole legislative framework.
There is an interesting discussion in this section about the way that the content of these principles had been considered when open to consultation. One of the principles (and the ‘main’ one) will be about a general aim to promote and contribute ‘to the well-being of the individual’ but the Act will also encompass some of the ways that this can be done by ensuring the individual in question is included in the process.
There is also a principle (unsurprisingly) about safeguarding adults from abuse and neglect and using a ‘least restrictive’ principle which will be familiar from the Mental Capacity Act. I am interested in how a ‘least restrictive’ principle will work in the context of people who do not lack capacity but I expect the issues will become clearer in the passage of time.
Part 5 – Assessments
Ah, the Assessment – that ‘core legal right’ at the heart of the Act and what will be the ‘gateway’ to services however they are delivered. Firstly the term ‘community care assessment’ was criticised as being old-fashioned. To be honest, we don’t use the term in any context except a legal one anymore anyway.
It is agreed that the threshold for accessing an assessment should be low and and that the assessment itself could be seen as a ‘service’ in its own right – the comparison is made with having a GP check up.
The local authority would be able to flag up voluntary sector services for people who did not meet the eligibility criteria and would be a source for advice and information as well as services. The paper also talks about clarifying the position of people who refuse assessments so they might be able to access information and advice without having to have an ‘assessment’ of any kind.
The threshold for a fuller assessment will be met when a person may have needs that could be met by service provision so there will be a change of language in the law however there is a (quite right) determination that the threshold will remain low – because you might not know if the need could be met until you have assessed!
There are a number of more specific guidelines mentioned about the way assessments should be conducted and who might conduct the assessments and how they would be undertaken. Generally, there are likely to be statutory instruments covering some of these issues and the details will follow, no doubt. There will be some scope for specialist assessments to be requested in certain circumstances where the user might have specific needs.
There was some mention of this being a reserved task for social workers but that was dismissed quite summarily (because there wouldn’t be enough social workers, I presume) and will be a matter for the statutory instruments!
There will also be further specific guidance about the scope and place for self-assessments in the process.
Part 6 – Eligibility
This is quite a complex one but basically, the recommendations include codifying what is, in effect, current practice – namely that the social care needs identified through an assessment are measured against eligibility criteria and if the individual meets those criteria as determined, the local authority arranges or provides services to meet those needs.
There would be in indication in the Code of Practice regarding the levels of eligible need and how the councils would interpret them.
The law is not going to specify where the line should be drawn by the local authorities regarding setting the ‘thresholds’.
Interesting discussion in the document about duties under s21 of the National Assistance Act. I won’t go into details because I don’t have time but it looks like the duties will be recommended to be retained.
Part 7 – Carers Assessments and Eligibility
Unsurprisingly, there will be a consolidation of duties under various carers’ legislation to provide a carers’ assessment. I’m shocked when I hear of the number of people who are not being offered carers’ assessments when they should always be as a matter of course. Hopefully, this will be an imagining of a long distant past.
The ‘cared-for’ person needs to have at least some social care needs for the carers assessment to be ‘triggered’ and not only ‘medical’ needs. This is a bit of a blind spot in my view but the document recognises this and feels that any changes made in regard to this have to be done as a matter of policy by the government.
The requirement to provide a carers assessment will though apply to any care provided and not be limited to those providing ‘substantial’ care as it is as at the moment.
It is proposed that rather than the carer needing to request an assessment, the local authority will have a duty to provide which is far better as I see it.
Part 8 Provision of Services
There is an discussion in this section about whether or not to define what ‘services’ actually are in the context of that which can be provided. It was felt by the commission that there should be some kind of list involved and that there was also a need to specify preferred outcomes of the provision of services. The list will take the form of categories of support in the context of those which will provide the desired outcomes.
The recommendation which explains it far better than I can annotate, explains
Community care services (however named) should be
defined in the statute as any of the following provided in accordance with the
(1) residential accommodation;
(2) community and home-based services;
(3) advice, social work, counselling and advocacy services; or
(4) financial or any other assistance.
The statute should set out the following list of outcomes to which the wellbeing principle must be directed:
(1) health and emotional well-being;
(2) protection from harm;
(3) education, training and recreation;
(4) the contribution made to society; and
(5) securing rights and entitlements
I actually really like the idea of including the outcomes. I think it adds significant clarity to the position and scope of provision of services overall.
It’s also interesting that social work services are seen as a discreet ‘service’ as opposed to advice, counselling and advocacy. I wonder if that is a shoe-in for a different type of social work with adults in the future. We can but hope.
Carers’ services will follow similar guidance as above.
A care/support plan must also be provided in written form for the user and carer (if necessary) that should include assessed needs, eligible needs and desired outcomes. I see in my future more paperwork but actually, if it is going to be an improvement, I’ll welcome it with open arms!
Direct payments will be retained in their current form and interestingly there is a proposal to introduce them to allow for payment for residential services. I am not necessarily opposed to this however I do think there are some practical issues that are a concern. I’ll have to come back to this though in a post of its own!
None of the existing provisions for services that are being provided free of charge (for example those subject to s117 aftercare) will be affected by this and they will continue to operate in the current form.
Part 9 Adult Protection
There will be a specific role for the local authority to lead on safeguarding processes regarding adults at risk of being abused. In fact, the term ‘vulnerable adult’ will be replaced by the term ‘adult at risk’. The document states:-
We, therefore, proposed that an adult at risk should be defined as a person aged 18 or over and who:
(1) is eligible for or receives any adult social care service (including carers’
services) provided or arranged by a local authority; or
(2) receives direct payments in lieu of adult social care services; or
(3) funds their own care and has social care needs; or
(4) otherwise has social care needs that are low, moderate, substantial or
(5) falls within any other categories prescribed by the Secretary of State or
Welsh Ministers; and
(6) is at risk of significant harm, where harm is defined as ill treatment or the
impairment of health or development or unlawful conduct which
appropriates or adversely affects property, rights or interests (for
example theft and fraud).
Quite a broad definition but contrary to be beliefs of some, does not include everyone over 65!
Harm will be defined as
(1) ill treatment (including sexual abuse, exploitation and forms of ill
treatment which are not physical);
(2) the impairment of health (physical or mental) or development (physical,
intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural);
(3) self-harm and neglect; or
(4) unlawful conduct which adversely affects property, rights or interests
(for example, financial abuse).
but significant harm will be a judgement process.
Section 47 of the National Assistance Act will be repealed which is unsurprisingly and there will be another commission to look specifically at what it should be replaced by. This is, perhaps, where compulsory powers of entry will come in.
Adult Safeguarding Boards will be put on a statutory footing and there is some additional guidance on how they will operate.
The qualification that Guardianship can only be used for people with learning disabilities when there is abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct’ will be removed which I think will allow for better protection for people with learning disabilities in the longer run.
The other sections of the report, I’ll cover very briefly
Part 10 Ordinary Residence and Portability
There is some clarification on the rules about residency in a particular authority and the principle of being able to take the assessment between different local authorities is, quite rightly, introduced.
Part 11 Overlap Issues
This part clarifies some of the areas where there are different pieces of legislation and particularly where there would be a crossover between health and social care issues but also with housing issues, forensic services and with childrens’ services. There is some guidance about clarity regarding continuing care guidelines and how direct payments might work if they are extended into healthcare (which is likely).
It also recommends that adult social care teams can assess 16 and 17 year olds .
Part 12 Other issues
This includes a look at the right to advocacy which the report says should be retained as far as it already exists but not extended.
The local authorities will retain their registers of people who are blind and partially sighted and have discretionary powers to maintain other ‘registers’.
There will be a continued review about a proposed definition of ‘a disabled person’.
So that’s all! Well, it’s been interesting to read through. Generally it seems like a substantially positive review and I think it will improve the way that services are delivered and at least make it clearer. There are parts of the review I’d like to explore in more detail – particularly the safeguarding arrangements and some of the items in the overlap issues like continuing care but I’ll have to come back to them.
I’d be interested to hear other thoughts about the process!
- Social care law revamp proposed (bbc.co.uk)
- A new legal framework for social care; the Law Commission reports (ageukblog.org.uk)
Tags: adult social care, british social work, direct payments for residential care, health, Law Commission, law commission report on adult social care, local government, mental health, national assistance act, national assistance act 1948, social care, social care law, social work, Statute, uk
Personalisation is a very broad brush term to describe the so-called ‘transformation’ agenda in adult social care. In very general terms it refers to the process of moving from resource-led to needs-led systems of service provision (just as the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 was supposed to do) but this time… with individual budgets.
The idea is one is it difficult to find fault with. Users and carers would have more control in choosing the type of care which was provided through having ‘pots of money’ either virtual or actual payments and deciding how best they could be used.
The change was led, ironically, by the soon to be extinct ILF (Independent Living Fund) which was the forerunner of the Direct Payment system whereby money was put directly into the hands of service users to choose and buy their own support and hire their own carers (with substantial support regarding admin and regulation if necessary). It was a new way of doing things and it generally worked very well.
Then with the ‘Putting People First’ white paper, the idea was to be rolled out to everyone receiving a package of care from the local authority. Wonderful. We would be living in a world where patronising social workers wouldn’t be dictating that ‘they knew best’ and imposing care packages based on large scale contracts negotiated down to reduce the costs and people would be able to choose the services they wanted and the carers they needed and liked. It would all end happily ever after.
I was a great campaigner for direct payments. I saw a lot of people do extremely well from them. I also think a lot more needed to be done though in increasing the take up and levelling the parity of service provision.
It appeared to me that those best able to advocate for themselves or who had active and involved families got the lions’ share of the services and were able to cherry pick whereas those who weren’t able to access the best systems either though lacking mental capacity, through lacking the desire or just being so knocked out by disability/age or lack of family got the scraps left behind by the system. The contracts that had been negotiated by commissioners who never themselves would actually use the services of minimum wage carers who were overworked by the care agencies determined to slash costs in order to win these prized contracts.
Soon though, the announcement came that everyone would get ‘personal budgets’ for social care. Wonderful. That would level the playing field, surely.
It was quite exciting. For a time. Until we realised that the people the local authority were ‘piloting’ the system with where exactly the people that they knew the system would work with – namely those who had successful direct payments packages.
Now, in my time, and the only time I’ve done properly authorised and supervised research as a practitioner, so happened to be related to direct payments. I spent a few months researching the lack of take up of direct payments by older adults and adults with mental health needs.
Now, my research was primarily literature-based. I did no direct interviews (ethics committees take time!). There was substantial sources of literature available, even at that point.
So what was learnt from the research that had taken place at that time and how was this used to improve the service provision when personal budgets were rolled out?
It wasn’t. So we find ourselves in the same place years later.
That’s a very long background to my point this morning but I think it’s important to emphasise the context through which I read the SCIE report ‘Keeping Personal Budgets Personal : Learning from the experiences of older people, people with mental health problems and their carers’.
I read this report last week and as is the case in all the best research, it backed up, with evidence my own feelings and ‘hunches’. I like research that does that.
The main learning from the report is that the key to the implementation of a successful personal budget is both information and involvement of a professional. People wanted support with completing self-assessment questionnaires in general so while our local authority employers promised us (don’t worry, we never believed them for a second) that time saved in leaving people to complete their own self-assessment questionnaires is time we could use in ‘creative support planning’ actually, the SAQ can be a daunting document.
In my experience, it is extremely poorly drafted (possibly because the focus groups were very narrow) and I am almost embarrassed to give it out. It focussed heavily on physical care needs and asked particularly strangely worded questions about capacity which shows the author of the forms have no understanding of the Mental Capacity Act and the idea of ‘decision-specific capacity’. It reminds me (and service users I’ve taken it to) of a DLA form. Jumping through hoops and ticking boxes to get money is not dignified.
The SCIE research also emphasises the importance of having a consistent person available to take a user through the process. Again, less necessary when there is a someone who is high functioning or who has highly involvement family/carers but the resource distribution of support doesn’t create an equity for those who need more. Professional time is increasingly stretched and the time spent rushing through a SAQ and package of support is not respecting the principle of self-directed support. As professionals with heavy caseloads though and targets which are tracked and time-limited, it is hard to balance this ethically.
Moving onto the Resource Allocation Systems (RAS) which is the way that the self-assessment ‘turns into’ a sum of money – either real or virtual for the user to ‘spend onservices’. I can’t express my anger about the RAS system strongly enough. It is heavily biased against older adults. It is even more heavily biased against people who have carer support. I don;t know how widely this information is known but if you have a family member providing support, you suffer massively when the finances are pumped out of the ‘RAS system’. The more help the family member provides, the less money comes out. I feel this is immoral and short-sighted. It places additional stress on unpaid carers and pays no heed to preventative care. Yes, individual cases can be argued but that takes more time and effort.
The we move to the support planning stage. You have the ‘virtual budget’ in hand so what amazingly creative package of care can you create. Again, the evidence in the report shows that it is often information that is shared by the professional in the first place that leads to the quality of support planning. Users wanted continuity of staff throughout the whole process of assessing and support planning so our local authorities great idea of commissioning organisations to help might miss this point – although that idea and those commissions fell through when the organisations they had commissioned were so overwhelmed with referrals they were unable to take on any more users. Oh, and the user groups that were commissioned? Physical and learning disabilities charities. Nothing for mental health or older adults. Surprise. Even though those were the groups least likely to get the support and planning needed.
There is so much in this report and it is worth reading if you are involved in any way in implementing personalisation in adult social care in the UK.
The sadly predictable thing is that I could have told the councils these messages 5 years ago but noone would have listened – come to think of it, I DID tell the implementation team 5 years ago and many times in between. They are so vested in this new system of delivery of services being ‘better’ that they are blinded to the vast swathes of people who are again increasingly sidelined and excluded from the positive thrust of the personalisation agenda.
Sadly, it feels like the lessons will never be learnt because the wrong people are being asked. No-one wants or is able to invest real money in providing better services and more flexible and easier ways of managing the service provision in the less engaging client groups.
It’s unfortunate that the agenda has sprung into life at a time when cuts are at the front of our communal minds. It has become too easy to see personal budgets and cuts in the same sentence when they were never meant to be.
The truth is that the whole system is failing those who need the support, advocacy and choice the most. You know, those elderly people with dementia who have care staff on minimum wage coming for 30 mins in the morning to give them a shower. There are lots and lots of them around.
I want to ask how is the personalisation agenda helping THEM? How is it helping us to help them? We are closing day centres because people can ‘group together and commission day services jointly’ but sometimes the purpose of a day centre is the company that you surround yourself with, the support of peers and not about completing a specific task or learning a specific skill.
More able, more active older adults may well use their ‘day services’ budget to go to the local bridge club or swimming pool – but how about those with advancing dementia whose carers need the respite that day services bring as much as the company and hot meal are welcomed by users. Are the local swimming pools and adult education colleges going to be suitable for all?
The idea of personalisation was the it would be something that would be actively chosen and engaged with and there is no doubt, it works very well for those who are actively interested and engage with their care services.
My concern is that the process has, again, run away with itself and left behind, far behind, those who cannot make decisions for themselves about their own needs and who don’t have family to advocate for them. They are left with the same ‘old style’ service delivery model of the cheapest agencies providing poor quality care by rushed carers on minimum wage. The difference is now the day centres are closing and the government are telling us this system works better.
The sad thing is, if they had read and understood the research that was available at the time regarding the take up of direct payments by adults with mental health problems and older adults, they would have learnt all these lessons and maybe put better systems in place. The cynic in me says they only wanted to see success and the same groups of service users suffer yet again.
One of the things that saddens me the most on a personal level, is that I was always a great advocate of the direct payment system. I plugged away with it and got some incredible results with specific service users. I was the little pet of the direct payments team, explaining again and again to my colleagues who wonderful it was to be able to reliquish control and allow and promote user choice.
I wanted and was sure the system of personal budgets would be even better. It would be more inclusive. It would fix the faults of the direct payments system because, look, we had research to back up why it hadn’t worked so well with these particular service groups (older adults and people with mental health problems).
All the research was ignored. Mistakes were replicated and exacerbated. If anything it is even more exclusive and inequitable than the previous system and no-one seems interested in listening to any of the real concerns and criticisms.
A great opportunity has been missed. Hopefully someone somewhere will actually read the SCIE research paper and think about making real changes in the systems of delivery and implementation. It could all have been done in advance though and that’s the true tragedy of the personalisation agenda.
- Respite, Disability and Personal Budgets. (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)
Posted in dementia, direct payments, Disability, discrimination, elderly, health, learning disability, local authority, mental health, old age, older people, personal, personal budget, politics, social care, social issues, social work, work
Tags: adult social care, budget, care provision, direct payments, ilf, individual budget, individual budgets, old age, personal budgets, personalisation, putting people first, sds, self-directed support, social care, social work, Support group
A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those deeply depressing moments that will generally punctuate a career in social care.
I had to go and tell a woman, who cares for her mother with enormous patience and dignity, that we could not increase their personal budget although her mother’s care needs had grown.
I suppose I went to my manager in a relaxed almost casual way and explained how the needs of the older woman had changed and to ensure her well-being, she needed additional time.
I was told, with a degree of equal sadness and regret that there would be no increase. If we were to provide what I felt was a necessary increase in care, the time had to be taken from the the hours already allocated.
She did, to her credit, try to have a discussion about this with her own manager but there was no budging on budgets. Despite the change in various situations, there would be no extra money. In fact, she added, the plan really needed to be cut.
It had been my first personal budget implemented. The council, in an attempt to encourage and prod us to implement these personal budgets had promised us and by extension, the service users and carers we work with, that no-one would be disadvantaged by moving to a personal budget so even if the RAS (resource allocation system – the way that figures are attached to needs through the personal budgets system) did not ‘deliver’ enough money to provide an equivalent package of care that had been delivered under the ‘old’ system – it would not be reduced (and here’s the key) at least, not initially.
Now this particular service user and her daughter had what was a high package of care. It had costed much more than the ‘RAS’ had spat out.
After making the promises, after the move to personal budgets is no longer an optional roll out of volunteers – the cuts are coming. There is no longer the carrot to offer of ‘equivalent packages of care’ because we now offer everyone as a matter of course a personal budget and those who were not receiving them are being transferred over to the new system regardless – they don’t have to be self-managed, of course, but they have to exist.
So I visited the family and we looked at ways of shifting around hours.
The hours that were cut were the respite hours.
I suppose it was inevitable.
Family carers are invisible. The work they do is not costed. Of course the daughter was sacrificing her own needs for a few hours respite to her mother’s needs for additional personal care.
This is what the cuts mean to one family.
I had to tell them and negotiate with them about what to cut from their own package of care.
Not the Prime Minister. Not the Millionaires in the cabinet. Not any elected politician or Council Chief Executive. No councillor had to sit in that room with me and look the service user and carer in the face and ask them what they would prefer to give up from their package of care.
I’ve known this family for many years. I have a good understanding what is at stake for them and how much these cuts are hurting. I also know they won’t complain or grumble or shout from the rooftops.
They are not going to be going on any rallies or demonstrations against the cuts – not least because the respite hours have been cut.
We who can, have to demonstrate and shout and scream on their behalf.
And you know, as I know and I say this with a heavy heart – they’ll be much more of this to come.
- Greater ‘choice’ for social care (bbc.co.uk)
- Paul Burstow writes… Our vision for social care (libdemvoice.org)
- David Cameron accused of second betrayal over care for disabled children (telegraph.co.uk)
Posted in carer, carers, dementia, direct payments, elderly, health, local authority, mental health, old age, older people, personal, personal budget, politics, social care, social issues, social work, work
Tags: budget, caregiver, cuts, Disability, evil tories, family, individual budget, london, personal budget, personal care, personalisation, respite care, sds, self-directed support, social care, social work
There’s a post on Community Care’s ‘The Big Picture’ blog which explains some of the reasons behind the decision to scrap the ILF (Independent Living Fund). It is written by Melanie Henwood and Professor Bob Hudson who were commissioned (they say) by the DWP to undertake an independent review of the ILF over four years ago.
This decision, they state proudly, is a result of their analysis and ‘review’.
‘More than four years ago we were commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions to undertake an independent review of the ILF. Our core conclusion was that it is highly anomalous for significant amounts of public money to be placed in the hands of a cash-limited, discretionary fund administered by a board of trustees, resulting in inequity, lack of accountability, overlap and duplication of functions, arbitrary decisions and major confusion for disabled people seeking support for independent living.
This is an anachronistic and paternalistic model that should have no place in a 21st century system of care and support. We recommended therefore that the ILF should be fully integrated with personal budgets rather than existing as a parallel system of social care funding.
Despite welcoming our report, the previous administration failed to act on it, and the coalition government should be congratulated for these first steps towards a principled and strategic decision about the future of the fund.’
Far be it for me to comment. I’m not an ‘independent consultant’ and I’m not a professor of anything. I just worked on the basis of using monies from the ILF and accessing support for service users I worked with.
I am confused by the lack of accountability charge in that the money was accounted for as far as I had always been aware and didn’t seem to be necessarily arbitrary in its allocation but that’s just my limited experience. I’ll concur to the obvious experts on that.
Yes, integrating the system with personal budgets of course makes perfect sense. The problem is that it is highly unlikely that any additional funding will be made available. As we see from the settlements the local authorities received this week, money is going to be beyond stretched.
I, by no means, think the ILF needs to be retained in its current form but it has been a representative acknowledgement of the needs for additional funding over and above what local authorities can provide for. By letting the funding stream slip entirely into the hands of local authorities it risks and will be subsumed by the many different calls for financing by more ‘life and death’ needs.
For me, the purpose of the ILF was to remove some of the budget from the local authorities – it provided a nationally imposed system of allocation which was the same in Belfast and Birmingham – in Hackney and Chelsea – the arbitrary nature was about when the money ran out rather than a so-called ‘postcode lottery’. Neither is fair but one is, perhaps, easier to comprehend.
It’s an interesting piece for Community Care that sure, raises some of the need for change in the way the ILF works. The problem is that for all the earnest explanations of Henwood and Hudson, there has been nothing from the government about any kind of replacement which hardly builds any kind of confidence that that money will be protected.
I don’t want to be blind to the failings of the ILF. I didn’t do any in-depth analysis of its workings to be honest – I just saw the way it works and the way it has helped people directly.
I can only look back at an article that appeared in Comment is Free on the Guardian website back in October. A panellist, SheenaMacInnes states that
My fear, should the ILF cease to exist, is that these funds will slowly disappear in the future, and that the choice afforded me by my self-directed budget will mean less and less support, let alone choice as the total budget reduces over time. This is not how I want to live my life. Having two funding sources means I have greater security regarding assistance in the long term, and greater flexibility. Less personal assistance will make it harder to contribute to society as well as to access community services such as health. The end of the ILF has the potential to be a disaster for me.
The problem with Henwood and Hudson’s post is that it is all very well calling for the need to change and criticising clear failures in the ILF which has, after all, been their job as consultants – but it’s hard to understand their glorious proclamation of a ‘new chapter’ for the fund-previously-known-as-the-ILF when nothing at all has been announced as its replacement. I have to wonder how much service-user consultation took place before this decision was made. Unfortunately the post sounds like an apologists’ dream for the new government.
Hollow promises and empty purses make for poorer service delivery. Services need to be fair and transparent, of course they do, but they need to exist and have the money to back them up as well. If the fund needs to change, so be it. I’m no expert in its mechanics, but this feels too much like just another cut than a considered statement on better supporting disabled adults at home and providing the funding necessary to provide good quality care.
- The Death of the Independent Living Fund (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)
Yesterday was quite a day for adult social services. As well as the more obvious announcements of the cuts to local authorities and the unveiling of a so-called ‘Localism Bill’, Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people announced that the ILF (Independent Living Fund) would be ‘financially unsustainable’ after 2015.
Financially unsustainable. It didn’t need a whole lot of foresight to see this coming. Back in June, the ILF was closed to new applicants after running out of money – so the budget for this year lasted between April (when applications opened) until June (when they closed).
Community Care writes that
Miller said that the ILF would stay in place to fund existing users until the end of this parliament in 2015.
Its payments would most likely be transferred to councils to administer as part of personal budgets, though Miller’s statement does not specify whether funding would be protected at existing levels after 2015.
And so it starts, the shaking off of responsibility of central government to provide additional support for disabled adults and the move of the responsibility for the additional funding to local authorities.
There are a few things that it is important to bear in mind at this point. The ILF is only or has been only accessed by people who are most disabled and have the absolute highest care needs. It was set up in 1988 although the rules regarding eligibility were reviewed in 1993. The purpose of the ILF was, as it’s name suggests, to maintain and allow for people with high care needs to remain living independently in the community rather than the alternative which was and is residential care.
The current rules state that someone is eligible for ILF funding when input from a local authority reaches a current level of £340 per week, the ILF funding will match that amount that the local authority on a pound for pound basis.
In my current incarnation, I don’t come across people who have ILF payments frequently – it has, like DLA only been available for people between 18-65 and over 65s can only claim if they had an existing award prior to their 65th birthday.
In the past though, particularly when I was in a generic adult social services team, I had a number of dealings with the ILF. On a personal level as well, my father received money via ILF.
It’s worth remembering that the model for ILF payments in 1988 was revolutionary and one that has and continues to have a major impact on the progression of adult social care. The ILF gave the money for the first time, directly to the disabled adult to choose their own service providers and/or employ their own PA (personal assistant). The Independent Living Fund was very much the forerunner of the direct payment/personal budget progression and the model for both monitoring and extending budgets directly to adults with social care needs themselves was trailblazed by the ILF.
The money provided by the ILF had, of course, guidelines attached regarding what it could be used for but it was money given in addition to the very bare needs met by local authorities. It was and is money that contributes to providing a better quality of life for people with high level needs because, believe me, you don’t get to £340 per week level of needs if you don’t have very high level of support needs.
The difference that the ILF money made was for a carer to accompany a service user to the local shops rather than go out and do the shopping for them. It was the difference that allowed a carer to take a service user to the local swimming pool rather than relying solely on day centre services. There is no doubt in my mind that ILF money contributes precisely to quality of life differences rather than the life or death care that local authorities provided. These are the examples that are often given for ‘care planning’ with personal budgets provided by the local authority – the difference is the amount of money that you have in the ‘pot’ and the potential doubling that happened when the ILF contributed – acknowledging that those with very high care needs had.. well.. the need for care over and above the bare minimum to retain a positive quality of life living at home rather than in a residential setting.
This is my main sadness is seeing its demise. It’s hard to stomach for the government but quality support and quality of life costs more money. Yes, the money has to come from somewhere but it shouldn’t be a ‘burden’ . We, as a society, should be prepared to pay the cost of it.
I know exactly what will happen when Maria Miller shifts the burden of cost of care back to the local authorities – the levels of care provided will fall through the floor and although for some people (those currently in receipt) that money may well be protected for a period of time, for those coming up through the ‘system’ who don’t have access to this additional support, it will create a group of people who may be living at home but on whose family the burden of care may well fall more heavily – removing the independent from the idea of independent living and replacing ‘living’ with ‘existing’.
As Lord Morris is quoted as saying by the BBC
“This will not save money. If you make it harder for disabled people to live at home, it will cost more because more of them will have to be in hospitals and other places of full-time care.
“It will mean far more of them having to be in institutional care at far greater cost to the taxpayer.”
It’s so horrifically ironic that as policies shoot away into the distance taking the goal of ‘personalisation’ as a mantra, that the very first forerunner of that policy which was revolutionary at the time – is being put down with no evidence that there will be any central government funding to replace it.
That’s not to say that the idea of the ILF needed to stay the same. I have no doubt it needed to develop – not least because I felt the age limits were at best arbitrary and at worse discriminatory - but by pushing the burden back to increasingly pressed local authorities the government has alerted us to its real intentions about the cost-saving implications of the move towards personal budgets.
Tags: abolition of independent living fund, Alf Morris, cutting ilf, Disability, disability discrimination, discrimination, ilf, Independent living, independent living fund, local government, lord morris, Maria Miller, personal budget, personalisation, Quality of life, social work, Spending Review (United Kingdom), uk