Personalisation is dead. Long live personalisation?

A range of important and interesting perspectives on the future (or not) of personalisation have been published this week.  Starting with Dr Simon Duffy’s unfortunately titled (by the Guardian, not Simon) piece in the Guardian earlier in the week ‘Personalisation was supposed to empower vulnerable citizens. It failed’,  followed by the as ever bang on the money tell it like it is piece by Mark Neary ‘The Personalisation Problem’ and then finally today a powerful future facing piece by Martin Routledge, Alex Fox, Miro Griffiths & Vidhya Alakeson  ‘Personalisation – give up or move on?’

Meanwhile Jenny Morris has provided a critically important reminder of where this whole agenda originally came from ‘if you don’t know your history, you’re like a leaf that doesn’t know its part of a tree.’

And finally, this is a wonderful blog from Max Neill, ‘The Plight of the Systemister’ Max asks ‘ I wonder whether we can change organisations and systems …. by allowing humanity, and the power of human relationships to really take root, in those little cracks in the system we open up every time we use person centred approaches to appreciate and listen well to people?’

I really hope so.



3 thoughts on “Personalisation is dead. Long live personalisation?

  1. There seems to be a lot of pessimism, tiredness and even cynicism about, that headlines like ‘personalisation has failed’ can only reinforce. One consequence of such despairing headlines for some will be to think “If it’s never going to work, then why bother even trying”.

    An accurate look at personalisation shows a much more subtle picture than either total success or total failure. There are plenty of success stories from people who it is working for, and there are stories of frustration at slow implementation, the impact of cuts, the inadequacies of the market, and at the refusal of bureaucracies to part with their power. How these are interpreted depends on whether you see the personalisation glass as half full or half empty.

    The real question is: Do we want to continue in this direction, towards the aim of personalisation, choice and control?

    If not, what is the alternative?

    If yes, how do we build on what we know is working, how do we address what we know is not working?

    As Martin Routledge has pointed out, none of the vocal critics of personalisation have yet pointed out any alternative. Leaving things as they are, or retreating back to the dark days of block contracting would be the worst alternative of all, and these seem to me to be the only likely alternatives on the table to pushing forward ambitiously with personalisation. I’d be happy to hear any other alternatives.

    Given the size and ingrained nature of the social and organisational forces and interests that personalisation challenges, it is astonishing that it has achieved the progress that it has. Nobody said this was going to be easy, even when it looked like such a simple idea. The success stories won in the teeth of great resistance, give us plenty to celebrate and learn from.

    We all need to hold our nerve, don’t give in to voices of despair, keep our eyes on the prize, keep finding new ways to desystematise and rehumanise the culture. Every small step forward is an achievement, we also know that humanity is capable of breaking through even the most arid formalistic systems when it is given a little encouragement.

  2. I don’t think the “glass half full/half empty” approach is terrible helpful in this debate.So it works well for some, not for others – that isn’t really a question of how it is perceived, but more to do with the needs of some being more clear-cut and easily met, and even more with the level of funding allocated. Some who have clear cut needs may well have a glass more than half full, while for others it is damn near empty. Who is it who is feeling pessimistic, tired, cynical – those who want to provide better services, or those who find that the promised “control” is not all that useful if there are few services to access or insufficient funds to make much difference. Instead of an either/or approach, shouldn’t we be looking more closely at why it works well for some and not for others?
    I don’t think it is a question of if not this, then what either. Personalisation has become not the development of better ways of providing services but more of a convenient fig leaf and a way of deflecting attention from the fact that most people haven’t a hope of getting much of anything.
    It is, of course, the right approach, Criticising the way it is implemented is not arguing for a return to a more rigid approach. But how is it going to be made to work? And when it comes to groups like the elderly and people with mental health or learning disabilities, who is going to make it work?
    One of the things I found interesting about Mark Neary’s post was that he wanted to talk about money – but the “systems” say you cannot start from there. The law says that assessment of need must come first, and LAs have a duty to meet any identified need, cannot evade on the grounds of cost. Quite right. Except we all know it doesn’t work like that.

    My daughter, like many of those in the groups named above “needs” 24/7 supervisory care. Very little chance of getting it, except from me – far too expensive. Sure, a “Personal Budget” to cover some easily identified corners of it helps. But it has to fit into very inflexible systems of accounting for its use and the hapless recipient is expected to do the hard bits unaided.

    A useful question might be: how do those who are able to fund their own care manage? Are they all blissfully able to purchase exactly what they want? Or do they sometimes find themselves stuck in the same minefield as the rest of us? In a nutshell, money is the first barrier, and muddle and the absence of workable systems is the second. Of course we should all go on pushing for better. It might take a while.

  3. Perhaps strangely I agree with both of the posts above. I wonder if part of the issue is whether we are thinking of personalisation as primarily a government policy or as the on-going struggle for people to have much greater control and direction over a sufficient level of support. We find ourselves in a situation where the barriers to the latter include a combination of insufficient resources made available, bureaucratic and controlling local delivery systems and some aspects of policy, with the first 2 probably the biggest problem at the moment. As both Max and Liz say the problem is therefore primarily with how it is done. If we focus on this, and don’t get distracted by whether it is a good idea or not we are most likely to develop the best personal and collective strategies to do something about that. So it is right for people to say “this is not being done right, that needs to change”. The risk is when this slips into being used by those who don’t want to transfer power to people and families and abused as a rejection of the idea itself.

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