Thursday, 19 January 2012

Personalisation Risk and ResponsibilitySome interesting reports

Following on from my last post I've just happened across some reports from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the topic of rights an responsibilities. There is a particularly interesting discussion about risk in one paper which has actually pushed me a little closer to the pro camp on personalisation. Interestingly the paper draws a conclusion that under a system of personalisation;

Risk should be shared between the person who takes the risk and the system that is trying to support them. This has probably always been the case and in many ways the personalisation agenda simply makes this more explicit, shifting the balance of power and making genuine risk sharing more likely in future.

What of course is missing from the discussions is what such an overt cultural shift would be likely to mean. As I mentioned in the previous post the logical end-point is that there is a much reduced role for 'social services' as we know it today - particularly as a large part of care management is concerned with assessing for and managing risk.

Perhaps in terms of complex cases and at times of crisis there will still be some role, but for the rest of the time it is much diminished even possibly redundant.

Is this a good, or bad thing? In some respects it is good, it empowers individuals to make their own decisions and choices and yes, social care needs a cultural change. When I returned to university to study social policy I remember being sat in the canteen and seeing a social work student - discernable by the hoodie they wore. It is something of a fashion for people to wear hoodies with some kind of subject related double entendre on the back i.e 'Lawyers do it without briefs' or somesuch thing, but in this case it was a rather earnest 'Social Work; Be the difference.' Maybe I'm wrong, maybe its a noble sentiment, but for me it had a smack of arrogance and seemed to re-enforce the view of professional/service user divide. We should also not lose sight of the fact that the system is there to meet a need, i.e it is a means, not an end - therefore we have no interest in protecting the current system for its own sake.

On the other hand though there is an issue of the balance between rights and responsibilities which personalisation makes more clear. If we take a long-term view then it is possible to see a future in which it is the assumption that social care in most cases is largely a private matter, for individuals- a view which provides a platform for further retrenchment of the state from the social care sector. Maybe this too is a good thing; are private services more responsive to individuals needs, would the voluntary sector better anticipate needs and be better at providing innovative services, or would such a change be merely to abandon those in need to the vagaries of the free market?

I make no judgement on any of this at present. The debates are many, complex and fragmented (as my own dissertation on organisational mission across the three sectors finds), the key point though is that the debate on the future of social care needs to pay far more consideration to the likely implications of changes in assumptions around rights and responsibilities particularly around the movement of responsibility from the state to the individual.

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