Editorial Comment: At last, an evidence base

Personal care budgets were given a massive boost this week in research that outlined significant ­benefits. Fears had been growing that, in the rush to personalise services and empower service users, we had forgotten to establish whether evidence supported the policy.

The government already appears committed, ring-fencing £520m for personal budgets over three years. And more than 100 local authorities are signed up to In Control, the predominant model of self-directed support.

Fortunately, the research shows that personal budgets improve outcomes for service users and save money. Three-quarters of the 200 service users surveyed said their quality of life had improved since starting self-directed support. They felt they had more choice, control and dignity.

Not everyone agrees. One service user writes on our Letters page this week that personal budgets, and his transition from user to purchaser, had brought “Margaret Thatcher into the bathroom and bedroom”.

Social work leaders should not underestimate the scale of change involved, from creating the resource allocation system that underpins it to changing staff roles and culture. It takes a lot of support.

Community Care can also help. Submit your experiences of self-directed support to The Excellence Network, our new honours programme, and we’ll share the learning points with the whole of social care (closing date 6 February).

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Mike Broad




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