Community Care alerted me to a new report developed about a great model of support planning called ‘Empower and Enable’ that is being proposed as a way to invigorate the ‘personalisation’ agenda and move it back to the roots of putting the user at the heart of support planning and removing this from the scope of professionals.
In the process of developing and implementing care currently, after the assessment has been fed through the ‘resource allocation system’ and an indicative budget has been established – the ‘support planning’ comes in to build, yes, you guessed it, a ‘support plan’ which would be what might have been called a ‘care plan’ in the past and details how that support will be delivered for the individual to whom it relates.
Groundswell Partnership , the ‘personalisation consultancy’ who wrote it, explain that councils should change their models of support planning and move the focus back towards the users of the services provided.
I couldn’t possibly agree more. This is what we were told when the whole personalisation agenda was moved out and I can’t honestly see what’s different apart from the lack of roll out to wider groups than those that benefited from direct payments. This was the ethos behind rolling ‘personalisation’ out beyond those who were receiving direct payments previously to everyone in general.
The model presented is one of ensuring that information is more freely available and that ‘professionals’ don’t need to take hold of support planning. It talks about shedding the ‘belief’ that professional support is necessary to enable support planning. Absolutely right. I would counter that councils have been trying to move away from professional support for support planning as it is more expensive but are too slow to change and stuck in systems of commissioning and getting services ‘approved’ to have moved quickly enough on this.
Currently, I am deeply concerned that the level of access to support and different kinds of support can be based on the particular social worker or care coordinator allocated in terms of our own knowledge of available services – particularly as regards managed personal budgets. I agree that the way around this is to make as much information about resources and services open access – including costs and deductions and details of block contracts and how they are delivered, so that anyone and everyone can have equal knowledge.
I love the idea that support planning should take time but there needs to be some thought to the more immediate support planning that might take place in a crisis situation and looking at how that can feed into these models and look at ways that people can – as far as possible – build in contingencies and forward planning into the current support plans.
The report also talks about building on community capacity to provide support and support planning. Wonderful. Truly wonderful but it fails to tackle those who are excluded by the communities in which they live. Working with a number of people who may lack capacity to manage their own support planning, lack informal support and are isolated or excluded by their community, I often wonder when a realistic report is going to tackle this issue properly – rather than a sentence saying ‘some people may need professional support’. Maybe it needs it’s own report. I’d love to see that. Honestly. I want to cheer these reports as they flow out of the ‘personalisation consultancies’ and I often do but I need to see some innovative thinking that looks at the realities I face daily.
I would counter that ‘these people’ who lack capacity require independent advocacy on top of professional support. Relying on a social worker for support planning, particularly in work with older adults where the case loads and expectations regarding quantity of work undertaken is particularly high, is absolutely going to produce a poorer quality support plan. I don’t think anyone is denying that – including the local authority employers – I suspect they would love to tender out this role however the clunky nature of contracting and commissioning makes this slow moving.
I know I put together some poor support plans myself. It doesn’t make me proud. I don’t go to work thinking to myself ‘today I’m doing to produce a poor support plan and I’m not going to ask Mrs Brown or her family about what she actually wants’. I try to consult but the time needed is squeezed. I try to engage family and friends, but you know, believe it or not, some families or friends actually don’t want to be actively involved and some people don’t have family and friends.
These reports are fantastic. We need more. We need more reports to explain why we are doing a poor job about providing support planning.
But what we also need are properly assessed and arranged targets set to local authorities that demand involvement by users in more than a peripheral box ticking way.
We need resources to provide effective and independent advocacy which will allow for equality of access to innovative support planning tools for those who are not able to independently access them for themselves.
My own dream was to break free from the LA yoke and establish some kind of local social enterprise type organisation that would be able to offer dual support planning and non-directed advocacy for those who lack capacity to produce really good support plans and support networks to fill in the gaps for those who don’t have the informal networks or whose family want to support and help but might not be able to to the extent expected sometimes.
If anyone wants to fund me or pay my salary while I do that, please do let me know.
There are better ways. I’m sure of it. While I enjoyed reading the report as it is, my brain was buzzing about how this model could work with the people I see every day – I’m still waiting for a report to deal with that. And if noone will fund my little social enterprise project, perhaps they could commission me to write report – for myself – about ways it could work better.
But I don’t think I can promise what these reports promise – which is zero cost.
And possibly that’s the key.