Personalisation, participation and policy construction: a critique of influences and understandings


When it first appeared, the adult social care personalisation policy seemed to assume that there was a universal understanding of the policy terminology, meaning and aims, which included a rhetorical commitment to ‘empowerment’, ‘co-production’ and ‘choice and control’ (HM Government, 2007). However, Beresford’s analysis provides insight into some of the confusions of meaning and contradictions inherent in this policy for adult social care. Other critics and observers also agree that as a public policy discourse, personalisation is imprecise, ambiguous and contains certain internal inconsistencies and tensions (Cutler et al, 2007; Pykett, 2009; Roulstone and Morgan, 2009; Needham, 2011a; 2011b), particularly as regards the conceptualisation, design and operation of the personal budget scheme in England (Boxall et al, 2009; Audit Commission, 2010; Carr, 2011a). This response is an attempt to deepen Beresford’s criticisms about personalisation not being ‘a user-led development’ and offers an expansion of his exploration of its origins by further critiquing the influential ideas of Charles Leadbeater.

Before it was introduced for adult social care, the personalisation agenda had already formed part of the policy for education reform and was being championed by the social policy think tank Demos (for an extensive critique, see Pykett, 2009), particularly through the work of Charles Leadbeater, a former Financial Times editor, management consultant and policy advisor to Tony Blair, with no experience in adult social care. Despite this, Leadbeater and Demos had a profound influence on the personalisation agenda for adult social care, with Demos publishing Making it personal (Leadbeater et al, 2008), a largely theoretical outline for reform, two months after the 2008 local authority circular outlining the adult social care transformation plans (Department of Health, 2008).

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