Up close and personal in Glasgow: the harmful carer, service user and workforce consequences of personalisation

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The following is a critical reflection on the first year’s ‘seismic change’ (Williams, 2012) implementation of personalisation in Glasgow, which casts doubt on its optimistic claims for service users and workers, and has implications for the Scottish Government’s Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Bill.1 The author is a trade union representative with the public sector trade union UNISON in Glasgow.

In 2010, UNISON trade union representatives within Glasgow City Council social work services (SWS) became aware that management were about to introduce self-directed support (SDS), or personalisation as it is more commonly known (HM Government, 2007). The representatives’ initial response was to invite a speaker from the Social Worker Action Network (SWAN) to a stewards committee meeting. As well as providing useful information, this helped shape the representatives’ critical attitude to personalisation, locating it within the wider austerity cuts agenda, where it was viewed as one aspect of continuing neoliberalism, which seeks to reduce the role of the state, aligned to the Labour Council’s own ‘modernisation’ agenda.2 Personal budgets shift the risk, cost and responsibility for providing care services from public bodies to individuals (Ferguson, 2007;Whitfield, 2012, pp 18–21). Yet, rather than oppose personalisation per se, the representatives argued that service users should have genuine choice regarding service provision and that SDS should not be used to cut care packages.

In September 2010, after consulting with UNISON, Glasgow City Council approved a report to implement personalisation, initially within learning disability services, and then for physically disabled adults. Eventually, SDS will be ‘rolled out’ to all users of social work services who have a physical or mental health disability (approximately 4,000 in total).

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