I have just spent the last two weeks on the road being inspired and challenged by commissioners and providers working their way through the personalisation agenda. Sitra have been catching up with the sector to understand how individual authorities and providers have been making changes to the way that they work to really make sure that service users are able to make real choices and take meaningful control over their lives and the services that support them. The events also coincided with the release of a number of new resources to do with personalisation, including a new film showcasing personalisation, new tool produced by the DCLG steering group on the customer journey – and a suite of resources coming out of the various work groups.
Some great insights have come out of the debates, particularly from commissioners who have transformed their approach to commissioning. We have heard from Hampshire and their work on developing local clusters to ensure that customer needs are effectively understood and met – and providing a more realistic climate for the emergence of micro provision. We have also heard from our audience including Walsall, Sandwell and other commissioners about how their work on personalising different services will influence their future commissioning within the community. We have also been promoting the innovative approaches of Leicestershire and their work with community catalysts (see here for evaluation of their work), and the exciting new approach of East Sussex who just started a major project to promote the personalisation of housing related support provision (supported by Sitra).
However, alongside the positive messages there was the constant reminder that all decisions, actions, and priorities within localities are being squeezed by cuts across the country. Commissioners happy to assert their position and approach, but couched in terms of ‘for now’, we ‘don’t know what next year will bring’ and ‘we are continuing to cut back on our internal resources’ – all of which generate a real cloud over the positive steps being taken. Sitra are planning to undertake a major scoping study in the next financial year to gauge the state of play across the country.
There are real concerns about how procurement will impact on the way in which authorities will be able to respond to create greater flexibility, focus on outcomes and a more negotiated approach. Increasingly decisions about contract size also dominated discussion – particularly following the positive input of Community Catalysts and their great work around the development of micro provision.
We want to know what you are doing. There is a huge amount of activity out there and we are really keen to have as much of this on line as possible so it can be shared. Make sure you check our new site that holds a growing set of resources, and if you have anything you would like to share let us know and we can spread the word. Copies of all presentations from the events are now available here.