Buying things together

The call for personalisation has grown over two decades and has survived changes in government.

The central idea is that personalisation will mean services are provided in ways that empower individuals and enable them to take more control over their care and support.

It is intended to put people at the heart of services, to enable them to have greater choice over what services they receive and when, and to give them greater control in deciding how to direct their care and support. This requires services to be individually tailored to support each person’s circumstances.

Up2us was set up to investigate personalisation in housing care and support. Six pilots ran for three years in Barking & Dagenham, Kensington & Chelsea, Kent, Knowsley, Norfolk, and Oxfordshire. Each pilot aimed to develop and test ways of bringing people together to pool money in order to buy the care and support that they want.

The pilots set out to explore two main issues:

  • Does collective purchasing as experienced in the up2us pilots have a positive impact on the lives of people with individual budgets or direct payments?
  • Does collective purchasing enable people to use budgets in a way that influences the current provider market and future provision, and creates benefits for its members and the wider community?

Housing Associations facilitated the pilots and worked with people who have personal budgets or funding from other sources. Each pilot was expected to demonstrate a culture of working that encouraged co-production and to ensure that people who use services are at the centre of each pilot scheme.

As the up2us learning partner, nef (the new economics foundation), worked alongside the pilot sites as a critical friend, tracking developments, drawing out lessons, feeding them back to participants, and building knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. The learning approach included regularly sharing information between sites and one-to-one interviews with local stakeholders.

A well-being questionnaire was completed by up2us participants and further well-being analysis was conducted on qualitative findings. Throughout, there were regular reviews and discussions about the extent to which co-production was taking place within the pilots.

The practical activity of the pilots was diverse and included:

  • building a user-formulated community networking web portal that brings together local people, local knowledge, and local resources;
  • residents organising shared activites in Extra Care housing and playing a role in commissioning future services;
  • young people with a history of homelessness making purchases to improve their health and well-being;
  • setting up a user-run co-operative with members planning and taking part in activities at weekends and in the evenings;
  • jointly buying gym equipment;
  • jointly commissioning shared overnight support; and
  • using participatory budgeting to organise day-centre activities.

Each area’s experiences are captured in this report. The activity extended beyond the initial focus on collective purchasing, allowing for a wider exploration of personalisation in a housing context. This has also revealed a great deal about how organisations function and how their culture, ethos, and procedures respond to change.

Key messages from the up2us pilots

The pilots demonstrated that Housing Associations can enable and support ways of doing things that start from the bottom up and are co-produced by people who use services alongside professionals. At times, however, working in this way was at odds with the prevailing culture and ethos. In order for Housing Associations to support people to co-produce personalisation and explore opportunities to pool budgets, certain changes are essential.

  • Decouple personalisation and personal budgets. Developing personalised ways of working that puts individuals in control is possible and desireable, regardless of the individual’s funding package.
  • Take an asset-based approach. Understanding what people are good at and benefiting from their skills and lived experience makes interventions more effective for everyone.
  • Develop personalised practice in organisational procedures, inspection, and auditing regimes. Organisations’ policies must support the cultural and systemic changes needed for personsalisation to flourish.
  • Support initiatives that start from the bottom up. Change is needed to ensure Housing Associations can nuture innovation and new partnerships with people who use services.
  • Learn from current practice. Collective approaches are already taking place in communities but more can be done to ensure they flourish.
  • Prioritise approaches that maintain and grow people’s well-being.These include activities that foster strong social relationships between people, and give people a sense of autonomy, control, safety, and security.

Choice is extremely important in all aspects of co-production and personalisation. There are benefits for individuals and organisations from grouping together to do and buy things. But it is critical that people are able to choose to do this. Service providers and commissioners can’t impose collective approaches or assign people to groups that don’t matter to them.



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