Wirral first with social services course

WIRRAL is leading the way in training social services and health workers in the new “personalisation” approach to helping vulnerable people.

The authority is the first in the country to team up with the Open University to offer a Masters-level course to train those working in social care on radical reforms being brought in by the Government.

The idea is that direct payments and individual budgets are the key to delivering greater choice and improved quality.

Individual budgets give people a clear, up-front idea about how much money is available for their support.

During pilot projects held around the country, different kinds of funding were brought together to give a more joined-up package of support.

People were then able to use that money in a way that best suited their own needs. They were supported by their care manager, advocate, family or friends to plan what they wanted and how to organise it.

John Webb, director of Wirral’s social services, said the new course would be offered to social services and healthy workers from early next year and the pilot would then be extended across the country. He said: “It’s very exciting. It’s something we had been thinking about and talking to a number of higher education establishments about.

“What the Open University has done – and it’s a real challenge – is that they will be writing the curriculum now.”

He said the usual lengthy lead-in for creating a new academic course was being avoided because of the urgency in training staff for the changes being made in social care.

Mr Webb said: “The Open University will deliver the academic part and we will provide the practice element of the course.”

The pilot course is also expected to see speakers well-known within the social services arena nationally and leading experts in the field contributing.

Twenty people will take part in the first course, starting in February, with 10 from Wirral social services and 10 from local NHS organisations before it is rolled out nationally.

It will enable workers to deliver the personalisation agenda, which is around halfway through its three-year programme. Mr Webb said that the Open University was investing significant amounts in the course which will focus on practitioners not managers.

Mr Webb said: “Personalisation is more than just personal budgets – it’s about making services more accessible and working closely with the community.”

People who received individual budgets during pilot schemes included older people and those with learning disabilities or physical disabilities and those who use mental health services.

The agreement to hold the course was announced at a social services conference at New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion, during which some of those already affected by personalisation were able to talk about the changes it has been making to their care.