Charities offer cautious welcome to promise of personalised public services

Officials are emphasising that personalisation will be a key part of coming white paper on public services reform

Cath Lee of the Small Charities Coalition comments on the reform white paper
Cath Lee of the Small Charities Coalition comments on the reform white paper

Charities have cautiously welcomed the government line that the personalisation of services will be at the heart of its public service reforms, which are due to be announced next month.

Officials are emphasising that personalised services, in which individuals are given control of how the budget for their services is spent, will be a key part of the government’s plans.

Personalisation means that people will be able to purchase the services they want from the organisation of their choice, including voluntary sector organisations.

Downing Street has confirmed that the public services reform white paper will be published before parliament begins its summer recess in July. The paper was originally due in February.

There has been media speculation that the white paper could be delayed until the autumn because of concern that its agenda of opening up services to the private and voluntary sectors could exacerbate conflict with public sector unions, particularly over pensions.

Cath Lee, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said: "There are potential benefits in personalisaton, but for many charities it will be an uphill struggle.

"Entering into this set-up is tricky, and organisations stand to benefit only if they have the flexibility and the funding to restructure and repackage their services so that they will be able to win more work."

Ralph Michell, head of policy at chief executives body Acevo, said: "Many in the voluntary sector say their services are more personalised than those offered by public and private sector organisations, and that service users prefer them because they are more in tune with their needs.

"If that is true, then those charities stand to benefit. We hope the government will be ambitious, extending personalisation beyond social care and into areas such as welfare-to-work."

He said he hoped the white paper would also contain measures to encourage joined-up commissioning and on the reform of Tupe regulations, which protect the rights of employees when they transfer from one organisation to another.

Jay Kennedy, head of policy at the Directory of Social Change, said personalisation would be difficult for many charities because it would force them to spend money on marketing themselves to beneficiaries.

However, he said he was pleased that the government was discussing the issue.

"The fact that the government is setting out its stall on this will encourage a discussion about whether or not this is the right way to go," he said.

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