Personalisation is an approach to providing social care and health services, focusing on choice and individualised support. Personalisation is becoming increasingly popular in the homelessness sector, as providers can offer their service users more choice and develop their own responses that are appropriate to the needs of homeless people.


Homeless Link has researched different approaches to providing personalised services for rough sleepers in a project for Broadway, funded by the Oak Foundation.  The research, published in December 2013, looked at how five organisations were working with people with complex needs or those who had been living on the streets for many years, as was based on interviews with service users, staff, project managers and commissioners.  We have also produced guidance for services wanting to introduce a personalised approach. 


Homeless Link has produced a brief update on Personalisation 2012. This document contains links to key personalisation case studies and a current overview within the homelessness sector.


The previous government policy document Putting People First sets out how personalisation will radically transform service provision in social care. The new coalition government has stated its commitment to the personalisation agenda, which states that the reform is necessary to:

  • Ensure sustainable long term funding of the social care system especially in the light of an ageing population
  • Resolve an over-complex and insufficiently responsive system brought in by the Community Care legislation of the 1990s.

In the homelessness sector, there is no current commitment to the kind of whole-system change that we are seeing in social care. However, the Rough Sleeping Strategy, No One Left Out: Communities Ending Rough Sleeping out lines the following commitment:

[Action 9] “We will promote more personalised services including testing individual budgets to increase the control people have over the services they need.”

Personalisation is likely to become increasingly important in how homelessness services are designed and commissioned.

What is personalisation?

Personalisation has been defined by the government as ‘the process by which services are tailored to the needs and preferences of citizens. The overall vision is that the state should empower citizens to shape their own lives and the services they receive.”  Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit (2007) HM Government Policy Review – Building on progress: Public services London: Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit (p.33).

Personalisation is the idea that service users should have choice and control over the support that they need. It has a great deal of continuity with the previous development of user-led practice such as direct payments.

Personalisation has been associated with a range of aims including independent living, person-centred planning, service user control or ‘co-production,’ collaborative working, transparency about the allocation of resources, support for carers, prevention, and total system approaches that break down traditional barriers between services. Personalisation will bring a fundamental change in the relationship between service users, commissioners and service providers.

Personalisation is first and foremost a concept or vision and there remains considerable room for interpretation and development of new approaches, especially at a local level or to meet the needs of particular groups such as homeless people. The government describes the personalisation agenda as ‘a catalyst not a straitjacket’ and as an invitation for services, users and government to ‘co-produce, co-develop and co-evaluate’ the change in services.

For more information about personalisation, visit our page Personalisation in Social Care.

Personalisation in the homelessness sector

Communities and Local Government are funding 4 pilots across England to explore the effectiveness of personalisation for homeless people. So far the pilots are focusing on “the small number of people who have slept rough for many years and have, up to now, been unwilling to accept the offer of help”. This will mean using the flexibility and choice that personalisation can offer to work with a group who refuse traditional service offers. To find out more about the pilots visit here.

One way homelessness providers can started moving towards a more personalised approach by asking how choice is currently limited in their services. Do clients have to pay for food whether they want it or not? Do they have any say over their key worker? Can clients choose activities or where they live? Are support plans structured around the organisation’s expectations of clients’ needs, or around clients’ own aims?  Personalisation offers an opportunity to build on current client involvement and to think outside traditional service models. Visit our web pages to find out about organisations such as Look Ahead and Thames Reach that have been trialling innovative personalisation models.

personalisation resources

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has a range of resources on personalisation, including a Rough Guide to Personalisation.

Community Care magazine’s personalisation page links through to recent articles on personalisation. These may give a flavour of some of the practice challenges, controversies and opportunities offered.

Personalisation update document Final.pdf64.13 KB