by Rob Greig, Chief Executive, National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
So many issues and such a small word count!
I recall being part of a small group discussion in the early days of what subsequently became known as personal budgets and personalisation, saying words to the effect of “this is a great approach, but think how it might be misused in a political climate of serious financial cuts and an agenda to dismantle the welfare state”. Everyone present agreed and – hey, look where we are now.
So for me the key challenge for TLAP is that is has to stand up for real personalisation and practically help its delivery. That means not only describing what personalisation should involve and look like, through TLAP’s documents and activities, but also challenging and calling to account those who misuse its name and concept. Sometimes that will be uncomfortable, because those doing so might be politically powerful or even connected with TLAP itself.
Let me briefly suggest five areas where this might be particularly important:
- Advocacy and co-production. The voice of people is at the heart of the personalisation agenda, yet we know that advocacy organisations are losing funding with local and national advocacy organisations closing (Action for Advocacy and Dementia Advisory Network both having gone). Government policy uses phrases like ‘information, advice and advocacy’ which risk reducing advocacy to a service and confusing it with other functions. Co-production as a term is being misused – with professionals ‘co-producing’ materials together. A specific TLAP initiative in partnership with the user led movement, designed to help commissioners understand the importance and benefits of well led, real advocacy, would be an powerful underpinning action to making personalisation real.
- The mental health field is a particular challenge given it has become increasingly NHS led. Personalisation is not really on the NHS agenda. Thus a positive action would be a renewed focus by TLAP on engagement with the NHS, helping them to understand what it might mean in a healthcare environment and using resources like ‘Paths to Personalisation’ to demonstrate practical actions for change.
- Disabled children and young people now have the potential to benefit more from the personalisation agenda through the SEN reforms. For many in the children’s sector, including schools, some aspects of personalisation and in particular personal budgets, will be new and challenging. Don’t leave the children’s world to reinvent and possibly redefine things. TLAP should reach out to the children’s sector – possibly broadening its scope, and having a specific initiative around disabled children and young people.
- Older people are clear, when asked, that they want to be supported to age positively ‘in situ’, retaining a positive role in their community and with their family. TLAP’s community capacity building agenda could play an important part in initiatives in that are trying to shift the ‘demographic dialogue’ away from older people being seen as a ‘burden’ on society (bed blockers, pension crisis, etc.) to one that sees older people as an asset to society with much to contribute.
- The post Winterbourne View agenda has had a seriously disappointing year, with the nationally led programme involving a lot of talk but little evidence of real action. There are signs that this is now changing and TLAP could have a role through helping the Joint Improvement Team to demonstrate that even people with the most complex needs can and should benefit from all aspects of the personalisation agenda – including personal budgets.
Those who know me will know that I could go on ………………